NICE, France (AP) — A man armed with a knife has attacked people inside a church in the French city of Nice and killed three.

Thursday's attack prompted the government to raise its security alert status to the maximum level hours before a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

It was the third attack in two months in France that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher.

It comes during a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished in recent months by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

France's president said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 currently to 7,000.