French law enforcement authorities identified Nice church attacker as Tunisian national Brahim Aouissaoui. The man arrived in France from Italy just a few weeks before Thursday's knife-attack that killed three churchgoers.
A police CCTV footage showed Aouissaoui arrived Nice's main railway station at 7 AM local time and entered the Basilica of Notre-Dame at about 8:30 AM after a sexton opened it. He carried a copy of Koran, three knives and two cell phones inside Nice's main Catholic church and went on a rampage slashing people with a knife and reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar" — an Arabic phrase for God is great.
An injured woman, 44, reportedly ran to a nearby bakery to raise an alarm but died on the spot. Other two victims were a 60-year-old woman and a 55-year-old man. Local police officers tried to neutralize the assailant but he approached them in a "threatening manner," because of which the officers shot him. Aouissaoui was taken to a hospital and remained in a serious condition.
Who is Brahim Aouissaoui?
Brahim Aouissaoui is a 21-year-old Tunisian who, authorities believe, entered France on Oct. 9 from Italy. The assailant first arrived in Italy on Sep. 20, through Lampedusa — one of the Pelagie Islands located in the south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. He spent two weeks in quarantine in Italy.
According to reports, Aouissaoui was not known to French anti-terrorist authorities before the Nice church attack. He was allowed entry to France since he was carrying an Italian Red Cross identity document.
Aouissaoui was in contact with a 47-year-old man in France before the attack. French police officials took the man into custody as a part of the ongoing investigation. Police sources told BFM TV that the man — whose identity was not released — was in contact with Aouissaoui just a day before the attack.
French Officials Blame Radical Islam
Thursday's attack came as the country reeled from the Oct. 16 beheading of Samuel Paty, a history teacher, by an 18-year-old radical Islamist teen. Authorities believe Paty was a target of an online hate campaign after he showed cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in one of his class. French President Emmanuel Macron, a vocal critic of radical Islam, said France "will not give up cartoons" and that the "Islamists want our future."
Macron called the Nice church attack as an "Islamist terrorist attack." "It is very clearly France that is attacked — at the same time we had a French consular site attacked in Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah, at the same time arrests were being made on our territory," he said.
Echoing similar sentiments, France's National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard blamed the attack on the fundamentalists.
"[The attack] painfully reminds us how much the deadly ideology of Islamist terrorism remains alive and well, as well as its will to attack our liberties, our most essential liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of teaching, freedom of worship," Ricard said at a press conference.