A knife-wielding man allegedly beheaded an elderly woman who had come to pray and reportedly killed two others at the Notre Dame church in Nice on Thursday. Two other attacks also occurred in the city of Avignon and the French embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Morrison described the “disgraceful” crimes as an attack on liberty and said that Australia’s thoughts and prayers were with the victims and the French people at this time.
“Australia utterly condemns the heinous terrorist attacks that have been undertaken on innocent people in France. These multiple attacks are despicable. They’re disgraceful,” Morrison said.
“Free peoples all around the world will stand together to defend freedom, to defend our liberties and to stand against the evil terror that seeks to assault that. While this year has had many other challenges with COVID-19, none less so than in France. It is an awful reminder of the evil that continues to lurk and seeks to strike against the innocent,” he said.
No terror groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks. AAP reported that the first attack was carried out by a 21-year-old Tunisian man who had recently arrived from Italy. The man is now in hospital in a critical condition after being shot multiple times during his arrest.
A second man was shot dead by police near Avignon after he allegedly threatened passers-by with a handgun.
Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, a man was arrested in the city of Jeddah for allegedly attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said that the attacks in France were proof that there was a growing global terror threat.
“It’s clear that over COVID these people just haven’t gone away,” Dutton said.
“They’re still spreading messages of hate over the internet, indoctrinating young people, even here.”
Dutton indicated that Australian domestic security agencies had recently executed warrants concerning terror activity.
“Clearly, the threat is still as relevant to us as it has ever been. It’s a major concern, and as a western nation we’re still well and truly under threat,” he said.
“These people would seek to do us harm in a heartbeat if they could, and ASIO and the [Australian Federal Police] and the state agencies do a great job.”
ASIO is Australia’s national spy agency.
Reuters reported that the attacks in France come two weeks after a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded near Paris after he used cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad to demonstrate freedom of expression to his civics class.
It is also four weeks after French President Emmanual Macron announced that he would defend France’s secular values against “Islamist radicalism” and declared that the religion was “in crisis” all over the world, prompting a fierce backlash from Muslim activists.