Anti-French Protests Held In Pakistan, Afghanistan As France Girds Itself After Latest Attack
By RFE/RL October 30, 2020
A wave of protests has swept across Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other parts of the Muslim world amid growing anger over France's defense of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
France, home to Europe's largest Muslim community, was at its highest security threat level on October 30 after an attacker with a knife killed three people at a church in what President Emmanuel Macron called an "Islamist terrorist attack."
French Prime Minister Jean Castex raised the alert level, and police armed with automatic weapons set up a security cordon around the church in Nice on the Mediterranean coast where the attack occurred on October 29.
That incident came less than two weeks after a middle-school teacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded by an 18-year-old assailant who was apparently upset that the teacher had shown a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class teaching the workings of civil society.
Tens of thousands of protesters on October 30 marched through the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Muslim-majority Bangladesh, chanting "Boycott French products" and carried banners calling Macron "the world's biggest terrorist" after the French president said his country had been attacked "over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief."
Protests were also held across Pakistan, where thousands of demonstrators chanted anti-French slogans, burned pictures of Macron, and demanded Pakistan's ambassador to France be recalled.
Police briefly fired tear gas at protesters who broke through security blockades in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French Embassy in Islamabad.
Thousands of protesters also filled the streets of Afghanistan, with demonstrators trampling on portraits of Macron and calling for the closure of the French Embassy in Kabul and a halt to French imports.
"We will not give any ground," Macron said outside the church where the attack occurred in the city of Nice, vowing to deploy thousands more soldiers to guard sites such as places of worship and schools.
He also urged people of all religions to not "give in to the spirit of division."
Brazil's Foreign Ministry announced one of the victims was a 44-year-old Brazilian mother of three living in France. A statement from the ministry did not confirm whether she also had French nationality.
"President Jair Bolsonaro, on behalf of the entire Brazilian nation, presents his deepest condolences to the family and friends of the citizen murdered in Nice, as well as to the other victims, and extends his solidarity to the people and the French Government," the statement said.
The Brazilian government also expressed "its firm repudiation of any form of terrorism" and expressed "especially its solidarity with Christians and people of other faiths who suffer persecution and violence because of their beliefs."
The woman was seriously wounded in the attack but managed to flee to a nearby bar. She died shortly afterward of multiple knife wounds, according to news reports quoting police sources.
"Tell my children I love them," she managed to say before her death, according to French cable channel BFM TV.
In a near half-hour frenzy, the assailant used a 30-centimeter-long knife to stab the Brazilian woman and cut the throat of a 60-year-old woman so deep that he practically beheaded her, French authorities said.
The other victim, a 55-year-old man who was the sexton of the church, was found inside the basilica, his throat also slit.
The assailant was shot and wounded by police.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the suspected attacker continued to shout "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) after he was shot.
Authorities have not formally identified the assailant, but news agency reports described him as a 21-year-old Tunisian national.
A spokesman for Tunisia's specialized counter-militancy court told Reuters the suspect was not listed by police in the North African country as a suspected militant. Mohsen Dali also said the suspect left the country on September 14 by boat.
It was not immediately clear what the motive was for the attack, but Estrosi compared it to the beheading earlier this month of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris by a man of Chechen origin.
The attacker had said he wanted to punish Paty for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civics lesson.
Since Paty's killing on October 16, French officials have reasserted the right to display the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous, triggering a wave of anger in parts of the Muslim world.
There have been several attacks in France carried out by extremists since 12 people were killed in an attack at the Paris office of the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
Tensions have heightened since the trial opened last month for 14 suspected accomplices in that attack. Days after the trial began an 18-year-old man from Pakistan seriously injured two people with a meat cleaver outside Charlie Hebdo's former offices.
With reporting by Reuters, CNN, AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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