By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Three people visiting a famed church in the French city of Nice have been killed in a suspected Islamic terrorist attack, authorities said Thursday.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said there had been a "terrorist attack at the heart of the Notre-Dame basilica."
One elderly victim who had come to pray was "virtually beheaded," he added.
Two of those who died were attacked inside the church, including the older woman and a man who was found with his throat cut, reports said.
A woman who had managed to flee to a nearby cafe was reportedly stabbed several times and died later.
Thursday’s attack, Estrosi said, was another sign of "Islamo-fascism". He stressed the attacker had "repeated endlessly 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is greatest).
A suspect was wounded by police and hospitalized after the killings at the Notre Dame Church, according to authorities.
The gruesome murders came while the nation and Europe was still mourning the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 in a Paris suburb.
Paty was killed Islamist for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to students. Those caricatures were published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.
In September, a man who had sought asylum in France attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.
The latest attack at the Nice church happened less than a kilometer (half-mile) from the site in 2016 where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens.
Thursday’s attacker was believed to be acting alone and police are not searching for other assailants, police said.
A witness potentially prevented more killings by raising the alarm with a special protection system set up by the city, according to reports.
In Nice, images on French media showed the neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.
The bloodshed in Nice came while a guard was attacked at the French consulate in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
The consulate said the attacker had been arrested and the guard had been taken to hospital. His life is not said to be in danger.
Thursday terror came a day after Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday published a caricature of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The cartoon depicts Erdogan sitting in his underwear, drinking a beer, and lifting up a woman's hijab to expose her bare backside.
Most Muslims consider drinking alcohol haram, or forbidden. That was in protest against Erdogan vocally condemning Macron's recent attacks on Islam saying on Saturday the French president needed "mental" treatment.
Separately Erdogan launched a criminal case against Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders after he published a Prophet Muhammad cartoon.
That prompted an angry reaction from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a liberal, and other legislators. This week Dutch Parliament held a moment of silence to commemorate the beheaded teacher.
It comes amid a wider debate about freedom of expression in Europe amid rising tensions with Islamic communities.
Far-right politicians say terror attacks are another reason to halt migration to Europe where more than a million people have sought refuge in recent years.
Macron, Rutte, and other politicians have defended the freedom of expression including publishing Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
France’s lower house of parliament suspended a debate on France’s new virus restrictions and held a moment of silence Thursday for the victims.
The prime minister reportedly rushed from the hall to a crisis center overseeing the aftermath of the Nice attack. French President Macron was headed to Nice later in the day.