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Three dead as woman beheaded in France, gunman killed in second incident

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A knife-wielding attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist act at a church in the French city of Nice today (29 October), while a gunman was shot dead by police in a separate incident, writes .

Within hours of the Nice attack, police killed a man who had threatened passersby with a handgun in Montfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon. He was also shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), according to radio station Europe 1.

In Saudi Arabia on Thursday, state television reported that a Saudi man had been arrested in the city of Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate.

The French Embassy said the consulate was subject to an “attack by knife which targeted a guard”, adding the guard was taken to hospital and his life was not in danger.

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Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, who described the attack in his city as terrorism, said on Twitter it had happened in or near Notre Dame church and was similar to the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty in an attack this month in Paris.

Estrosi said the attacker had repeatedly shouted the phrase “Allahu Akbar”, even after he had been detained by police.

One of the people killed inside the church was believed to be the church warden, Estrosi said, adding that a woman had tried to escape from inside the church and had fled into a bar opposite the 19th century neo-Gothic building.

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“The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive,” Estrosi told reporters.

“Enough is enough,” Estrosi said. “It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.”

Reuters journalists at the scene said police armed with automatic weapons had put up a security cordon around the church, which is on Nice’s Jean Medecin avenue, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Ambulances and fire service vehicles were also at the scene.

French President Emmanuel Macron is due to visit Nice, Estrosi said.

In Paris, lawmakers in the National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said the people of Nice “can count on the support of the city of Paris and of Parisians”.

Police said three people were confirmed to have died in the attack and several were injured. The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate.

A police source said a woman was decapitated. French far-right politician Marine Le Pen also spoke of a decapitation having occurred in the attack.

A representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith strongly condemned the attack. “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday of Mawlid.”.

The holiday is the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, which is being celebrated today.

Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a “horrible way”.

“The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,” he said, referring to a French teacher beheaded earlier this month in an attack in a suburb of Paris.

The attack comes while France is still reeling from the beheading earlier this month of middle school teacher Paty by a man of Chechen origin.

The attacker had said he wanted to punish Paty for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a civics lesson.

It was not immediately clear if Thursday’s attack was connected to the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

Since Paty’s killing, French officials - backed by many ordinary citizens - have re-asserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.

That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

In a comment on recent beheadings in France, the Kremlin said on Thursday it was unacceptable to kill people, but also wrong to insult the feelings of religious believers.

NATO

Russia warns NATO any move on Ukraine will have consequences - report

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Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of NATO headquarters during the move there, in Brussels, Belgium. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

Moscow has warned NATO that any move towards Ukraine's membership in the bloc will have consequences, the RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying on Thursday (21 October), write Maxim Rodionov and Olzhas Auyezov, Reuters.

RIA said Rudenko had been asked about US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin's comments on a visit to Ukraine this week when he said that Washington supported Kyiv's aspiration's to join the transatlantic alliance and that no country could veto such a move.

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Defence

Essential infrastructure: New rules to boost co-operation and resilience

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Civil Liberties Committee MEPs endorse new rules to better protect essential services like energy, transport and drinking water.

With 57 votes in favour and six against (no abstentions), the Committee adopted its negotiation position on new rules on EU critical infrastructure entities. MEPs are aiming to better protect essential services (e.g. energy, transport, banking, drinking water and digital infrastructure) by improving member state resilience strategies and risk assessments.

Climate change is included as a potential source of disruption of essential infrastructure, and cyber-security is seen as an important aspect of resilience. As services are increasingly interdependent, the reformed directive requires local authorities to set up a single point of contact responsible for communicating with other jurisdictions. It also creates a new Critical Entities Resilience Group to facilitate communication between stakeholders, with Parliament participating as an observer.

MEPs push for broader scope, more transparency

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MEPs want to see more transparency when disruptions happen, requiring critical entities to inform the general public about incidents or serious risks. They also want to make sure that member states can provide financial support to critical entities, where this is in the public interest, without prejudice to state aid rules.

The Civil Liberties Committee proposes to widen the definition of essential services, so that protecting the environment, public health and safety, and the rule of law are also mentioned.

To make cross-border co-operation frictionless, MEPs finally want service providers to be considered “of European significance” if they offer similar services in at least three member states.

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After the vote, rapporteur Michal Šimečka (Renew, SK) said: "Critical entities provide essential services across the EU, while facing a growing number of both man-made and natural threats. Our ambition is to strengthen their ability to cope with risks to their operations while improving the functioning of the internal market in essential services. We are expected to deliver on a Europe that protects and that means also bolstering the collective resilience of the critical systems underpinning our way of life."

Background

The European Critical Infrastructure (ECI) directive currently covers only two sectors (transport and energy), whereas the reformed directive would expand this to ten (energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, health, drinking water, waste water, digital infrastructure, public administration and space). At the same time, the new directive introduces an all-hazard risk approach, where the ECI was largely focused on terrorism.

Next steps

Before negotiations with the Council can start, the draft negotiating position will need to be endorsed by the whole house in a future session.

Further information 

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Cyber Security

Why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you

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From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance, Society.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2021 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.

Definitions

  • Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks
  • Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems
  • Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments

Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs

The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.

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Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organizations after blocking their IT systems and data.

A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU's digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated  that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime.

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The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.

Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.

From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply - attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.

Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.

Cybersecurity in the EU

Businesses and organisations in the EU spend 41% less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity to allow the EU to become a global cyber player. MEPs recently called for common EU cyber defence capabilities and are working to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity in the EU.

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