A TUNISIAN terrorist was pictured grinning after arriving in Italy weeks before he was “freed from detention to slaughter three in Nice”.
Brahim Aoussaoui, 21, arrived in Europe just weeks before launching Thursday’s bloody attack, using a foot-long knife to butcher his victims.
⚠️ Read our France terror attack live blog for the latest news & updates
A security source told the Parisien newspaper that Aoussaoui had followed the “classic migratory route” to Europe from North Africa, and arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa on a small boat on September 20.
“The young man was then suspected of having contracted Covid-19 and was placed in solitary confinement on a ship,” said the source.
According to the source, Aoussaoui should have been jailed before deportation after disembarking on October 9 in the port of Bari with no papers and clearly suffering health problems.
Instead, authorities failed to confirm the killer’s identity and he was let free.
He then made his way to Paris, and then to Nice, travelling by train in a manner that did not alert officials.
An investigation is currently underway to “determine the causes of this dysfunction,” the source reported.
An unidentified 47-year-old man was also in custody following meetings he had with the infected killer on the eve of Thursday’s bloodbath.
One theory being examined is that both were linked to a network run by Al-Qaeda, the Islamist terrorist group which has called for a jihad.
Aoussaoui’s family are now being quizzed about his links to a jihadi organisation.
His relatives, speaking at their home in the Tunisian town of Bouhajla where he previously lived, said the 21-year-old had been in contact with them since he arrived in France.
According to his family, the attacker even sent them a photo of the Notre Dame cathedral before murdering the three victims.
Brahim’s brother Yacine told Al Arabiya, an Arab media outlet: “He told me he wanted to spend the night in front of the cathedral.
“He also sent me a photo of the building. He phoned me when he arrived in France.”
Brahim’s brother went on to tell of the shock that his family felt when they found out that he was responsible for the terrorist attack.
“What we saw in the images is him, our son,” Yacine told the TV network.
Tunisia on Thursday announced it had opened an investigation into the alleged attacker.
Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s League party, accused the government of being too lax on immigration controls.
“If it is confirmed that the attacker landed on Lampedusa in September, then went to Bari and then fled, then we will ask for the resignation of the interior minister,” said Mr Salvini.
Aoussaoui had arrived in Nice at around 6.30am via the railway station, where he quickly changed his clothes, French prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told journalists yesterday.
CCTV then showed him arriving in the church at 8.30am and staying there for nearly half an hour.
Three worshippers were killed in the rampage as the terrorist stormed the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, later being neutralised by cops who shot him.
He survived, despite being shot 14 times by police, and is under armed guard in a secure hospital wing.
Sacristan Vincent Loquès, 54, had his throat slit as he prepared for the first Mass of the day, while one woman was found partially beheaded near the holy water font.
Loquès, a dad-of-two, was the building’s 54-year-old sacristan, an officer charged with taking care of the church.
Parishioners paid tribute to him as a man who loved his church, saying “he helped, he served, he gave”, reports Nice-Matin.
He was said to be preparing the church for Sunday’s upcoming All Saint’s Day when he was attacked by the knifeman.
Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, fled the carnage inside the church and ran into a nearby cafe, where she died of her injuries after telling paramedics: “Tell my children that I love them”.
What we know so far:
- Three dead – one beheaded – in suspected terror attack at Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice, France
- Suspect has been named as Brahim Aoussaoui – reportedly a 21-year-old Tunisian
- The first victim has been named as Vincent Loquès, 54, the church warden
- Emmanuel Macron denounces violence as an “Islamic terror attack” and deploys 7,000 soldiers to the streets of France
- Knifeman doing a “Nazi salute” shot dead in Avignon after threatening police hours after attack in Nice
- Security guard stabbed by attacker at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- Fears of an attempted “copycat attack” after man with knife pulled over near church in Paris
- Man arrested with a 12-inch knife at a tram stop in Lyon
- France has provoked fury over its refusal to condemn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo
- Mass protests have been seen in many Muslim countries and calls for boycotts of French goods
- Incidents follow double stabbing in Paris near old Charlie Hebdo office in September 24 and the beheading of teacher Charles Paty on October 16
Armed cops who swooped on the church following Thursday’s murder spree found a bag with two more knives that the terrorist had armed himself with.
Elsewhere, there have been at least three other incidents as French president Emmanuel Macron described his country as “under attack”.
In Avignon, a far-right knifeman was also shot dead by cops and a security guard was stabbed at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as France was rocked by a day of violence.
It was reported a knifeman was caught near a church in Paris after telling his family he wanted to copy the attack in Nice, while another man was arrested while he was about to board a tram armed with a 12-inch knife.
Emmanuel Macron’s government had moved the terror alert level to the highest ’emergency’ level.
‘THREAT LEVEL RAISED’
Macron denounced the Nice bloodbath as an “Islamic terror attack” and defiantly said the nation would not “give up on our values”.
The president announced up to 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to the streets across France in the wake of the violence to protect landmarks, schools and places of worships.
France has now raised its alert status to the highest possible level of “terror attack emergency”.
Last night mourners gathered at Nice’s Notre Dame basilica to hold a candlelit vigil in memory of the victims, as the Cannes Film Festival laid out a black carpet at its entrance.
It is reported the church was preparing to open for mass when the knifeman attacked, sparking a swoop by armed police who shot and wounded him at around 9am local time.
Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting “Allahu Akbar” even after he had been shot – and said it had all the hallmarks of a “terror attack“.
He said: “Enough is enough. 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.”
It comes amid heightened security fears in France due to an ongoing row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
And the two attacks have also happened as Muslims celebrate the holy day Mawlid, which marks the birth of Mohammed.
Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
Daniel Conilh, a 32-year-old waiter at the Grand Cafe de Lyon, a block from the church, said it was shortly before 9am when “shots were fired and everybody took off running.”
“A woman came in straight from the church and said, ‘Run, run, someone has been stabbing people’,” he told AFP
Another witness told Nice-Matin: “I saw a guy come out like crazy from the church, running.
“Within thirty seconds, between four and six city policemen chased.”
One local told BFMTV: “I was selling croissants when a man came in and said to me: ‘Monsieur, there’s a decapitated woman in the cathedral’.
“I didn’t believe him at first but he repeated it. I went to the cathedral and saw the municipal police and called to them. They came quickly.”
Terror in France
France has seen hundreds of people killed in terror attacks over the last five years.
- January 7, 2015 – Two gunmen break into satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s offices and killed 12 people.
- January 9, 2015 – Terrorist kills a policewoman before taking hostages at a supermarket – killing four before police shot him dead.
- November 13, 2015 – Paris rocked by multiple gun and bomb attacks which saw 130 people killed and 368 wounded.
- June 14, 2016 – Police commander and his partner stabbed to death outside his home in a Paris suburb.
- July 14, 2016 – Gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more.
- July 26, 2016 – Two attackers butcher a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in Normandy
- March 23, 2018 – Gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket.
- October 3, 2019 – IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarter, kills three police officers and one civilian employee.
- September 24, 2020 – Two people stabbed and wounded in Paris near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo
- October 16, 2020 – School teacher Samuel Paty beheaded on the street of a Paris suburb after showing his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression.
- October 29, 2020 – Three people killed, including a woman being beheaded, at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice
Nice previously suffered at the hands of terrorists in July 2016, when 86 people were killed in the city when a terrorist rammed a 19-tonne cargo truck through crowds on Bastille Day.
The fresh outbreak of violence has seen both the murder of Paty and the stabbing of two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
The French anti-terrorist prosecutor’s department said it had been asked to investigate the attack.
Macron visited the scene on October 29 Mayor Estrosi, while France’s National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government’s response will be “relentless and immediate”.
Italian leader Giuseppe Conte also condemned the “vile attack”- and said it “will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace.”
He added: “Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror.”
In a statement, a representative of the French Council for the Muslim Faith said: “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.”
Irans foreign minister also strongly condemned the deadly knife attack in southern France and called it a terrorist attack.
Pope Francis prayed for the victims of an attack by a knifeman in a Nice church Thursday, as the Vatican said “terrorism and violence can never be accepted”.
The killings occurred just ahead of the Catholic holy day of All Saints Day on Sunday.
Prophet Mohammed cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity with Paty to defend what many in the country see as its values of free speech and secularism.
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values – which has angered many Muslims.
On October 28 Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the row over the cartoons could lead to “violence and bloodshed”.
He said: “It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed.”
Rouhani added: “Westerners must understand the great Prophet of Islam is loved by all Muslims and freedom-lovers of the world.
“Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims. Insulting the Prophet is insulting all prophets, human values, and amounts to undermining ethic.”