French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronEU 'denounces' Russian malicious cyber activity aimed at member states French diplomat says 'time and actions' needed to restore ties with US France to bill Australia over canceled submarine deal MORE announced Thursday that he would be sending 7,000 troops to protect schools and religious sites after a knife attack inside a Nice church left three people dead.
According to The Associated Press, the French government has raised its security alert status to the highest threat level, with the president saying he would double the 3,000 troops currently deployed to protect schools and places of worship.
Authorities said Thursday that an armed attacker was wounded and taken into custody after a confrontation with police outside Nice's Notre Dame Church, less than a mile from the location of a 2016 truck attack that killed dozens.
“He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured,” Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said, referring to the attacker. “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt.”
Police said one elderly victim was "nearly beheaded," according to the BBC. Two people were attacked inside the church, and the third person was mortally wounded just outside the building.
Police have the area locked down as an investigation continues.
Thursday’s attack is the third in France in the past two months that authorities have tied to Islamic extremists, including the Oct. 16 beheading of a French middle school teacher who showed his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a lesson on free speech.
The caricatures were published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015, leaving 12 dead. In September, an asylum-seeker in France attacked people with a butcher knife outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices.
Macron called the school teacher a "quiet hero" for standing against Islamist separatism and supporting free speech, and he has repeatedly defended Charlie Hebdo in the past over its cartoons.
His defense of the teacher has been met with vocal opposition from Muslims in multiple countries.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith reportedly condemned the attack on Thursday.
"As a sign of mourning & solidarity with victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday of Mawlid," the organization said.
Also on Thursday, a Saudi man was arrested in connection with the stabbing of a guard at the French Consulate in the city of Jeddah, though it was not immediately clear if it was connected to the attack in Nice.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned Macron for his stance on the Muhammad images, and Turkish officials on Wednesday criticized Charlie Hebdo over a cartoon depiction of Erdoğan.