ISLAMABAD/ PARIS - A man wielding a knife outside a church in the southern French city of Nice killed three persons and stabbed several others in an attack on Thursday morning, officials said. The suspected assailant was detained shortly afterwards, a police source said, while interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that he had called a crisis meeting after the attack. 

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was an ‘Islamist terrorist’ attack and France would not surrender its core values. Media reports say some 4,000 additional troops are being deployed to protect churches and schools.  The deadly stabbing in France occurred at a time when massive protests are taking place in many Muslim states including Pakistan against French President over publications of blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In Nice, one elderly victim was "virtually beheaded", AN officials said, adding another woman and a man also died on the spot. A male suspect was shot and detained, police said.

Anti-terror prosecutors opened an investigation into the attack as France raised its national security alert to its highest level. According to BBC, police named the suspect as Brahim Aioussaoi, a 21-year-old Tunisian who arrived by boat on the Italian island of Lampedusa in September. He was placed in coronavirus quarantine there before being released and told to leave Italy. He arrived in France earlier this month.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi spoke of "Islamo-fascism" and said the suspect had "repeated endlessly 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest)". Two other attacks took place on Thursday, one in France and one in Saudi Arabia. A man was shot dead in Montfavet near the southern French city of Avignon after threatening police with a handgun. A guard was attacked outside the French consulate in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. A suspect was arrested and the guard taken to hospital. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Thursday strongly condemned the Knife attack in French city Nice. “We express our condolences on the loss of precious lives and sympathize with the bereaved families. There is no justification for such acts of violence, in particular in places of worship,” a foreign ministry statement said.