French PM Jean Castex presides over tribute to victims of church attack in Nice

© FRANCE 24 screen grab

Nine days after a terrorist wielding a knife killed three people at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice, French Prime Minister Jean Castex presided over a national tribute to the victims of the attack.

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The October 29 murders were a blow to a nation already on edge after the murder of teacher Samuel Paty in retaliation for showing his students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed during a class on free speech just a week earlier. French President Emmanuel Macron deemed Paty’s killing an attack on the French republic itself.

Castex began the tribute with a minute of silence, as he and uniformed soldiers stood erect in the southern sun, the Mediterranean Sea glittering through pines behind them. He spoke of the lives of the three victims, Nadine Devillers, 60, Vincent Loquès, 55, and Simone Barreto Silva, 44, and concluded by pinning the National Medal of Recognition of Victims of Terrorism to the red velvet cushions that stood in front of large photos of each of the deceased.

The three were killed when a young Tunisian man carrying a copy of the Quran attacked worshippers in the church. The assailant had shouted, "Allahu Akbar", or God is greatest, even after he had been detained. He was wounded by police and taken to the hospital in life-threatening condition after his arrest.

“Terrorism attacks what we are, what constitutes our identity, our freedom, our culture and, lastly, our lives,” said Castex. “We know the enemy. Not only is he identified but he has a name: It is radical Islamism, a political ideology that disfigures the Muslim religion by diverting its texts, its dogma and its commands… We will not allow the the France that we love to be disfigured.”

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