French authorities arrest two in connection with Nice knife attack

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Oct. 31 (UPI) — French officials say they have arrested two men suspected of being in contact with the man who killed three people at a church in Nice Thursday.

French security forces have not said what connection the men, aged 47 and 35, may have had to the attack at a Catholic basilica in the southern part of the country.

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Authorities have described the stabbing as a terrorist attack and placed the country on its highest terrorism threat level immediately following the incident.

Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said the country was being targeted because of its support for freedom of expression and secularism.

Darmanin told a radio station Friday that the main suspect, 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaui, had arrived in Italy from Tunisia in September and then traveled to France. Aouissaui was shot by police during the attack and remains in the hospital.

The attack came two weeks after middle-school history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded after showing students controversial caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad to his students during a discussion of the 2015 attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

On Saturday French president Emmanuel Macron told Al-Jazeera he understood Muslims’ shock over the cartoons, but that violence was not justified.

“I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights,” Macron said. “I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw.”

Also on Saturday, French police arrested a suspect in connection with a shooting that injured a Greek Orthodox priest in the city of Lyon.

The priest survived the shooting but authorities said he was seriously injured. Police say they have not ruled out the possibility of terrorism but also said the shooting may have happened after a personal dispute.