2 Victims Identified in France Church Stabbing Attacks

Two of the three people who were killed in a knife attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice, France, have been identified.

Vincent Loques, a sexton of the Notre Dame church, as well as an unidentified 60-year-old parishioner who came early to pray, were allegedly stabbed to death inside the church shortly before a mass was scheduled to begin, Reuters reports.

Simone Barreto Silva, 44, was allegedly stabbed several times inside the church. She was able to escape to a neighborhood restaurant, where she died of her injuries, the Guardian reports.

According to the Guardian, she told rescuers, “Tell my kids I love them,” before she died.

According to Reuters, Loques, 55, was attacked shortly after he opened the church doors around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. His attacker allegedly slit his throat and then beheaded the elderly parishioner.

The BBC reports that Loques had worked at the church for more than 10 years and had just bought a house with his wife in a nearby village.

“You dedicate your life to helping people and then this happens,” church treasurer Jean-Francois Gourdon told the BBC. “It creates a big hole.”

According to the Guardian, Loques' job was welcoming worshippers as they entered the church.

He was a father of two, the Associated Press reports.

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Silva, who was born in Brazil, lived in France for more than three decades. The mother of three was a caregiver to the elderly,  worked as a cultural activist and organized a festival revolving around the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess Iemanjá, according to the Guardian.

The alleged attacker, who was identified by the Associated Press as Tunisian Ibrahim Issaoui, was shot and wounded after the spree.

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron stepped up security around places of worship and schools, deploying thousands of soldiers, Reuters reports.

The anti-terrorist magistrate announced the opening of an investigation to continue looking into the nature of the attack.

The stabbings came two weeks after a French middle school teacher, Samuel Paty, was killed in a beheading outside Paris.

Paty was tracked and killed outside the school by an alleged terrorist. The attacker reportedly said he wanted to punish Paty for showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in one of his classes.

Paty reportedly showed the cartoons to students after the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo reprinted the drawings, which previously sparked a separate terrorist attack inside the controversial magazine's Paris offices in 2015.

Nice's Mayor Christian Estrosi, who rushed to the cathedral after Thursday's knife attacks, tweeted that it should be considered a terrorist incident. During a hastily called press conference, he described the event and its "horror."

France's fifth largest city, Nice was the site of a former terrorist incident in July 2016, when a man drove a truck through a large crowd, killing more than 80 people attending Bastille Day ceremonies along the city's celebrated Promenade des Anglais.

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