A 21-year-old man who recently came to Europe from Tunisia is behind the pathetic terrorist attack in a church on the French Riviera in Nice.
He entered the church with a large knife and reportedly beheaded a 60-year-old woman whose dying words were, “Tell my children I love them.”
He stabbed the church’s 55-year-old sacristan in charge of the upkeep of the church and left a third victim, a 44-year-old woman who was so badly injured that she died of her wounds in a nearby restaurant fled cruel scene.
More than 12 hours after his fatal attack, as night falls in Nice, details about the knife man emerge.
According to the police, Aouisaoui was born in Tunisia in 1999 and did not come to Europe until Wednesday.
Originally from the village of Sidi Omar Bouhajla near Kairouan, he had moved to Sfax with his family before moving to Europe.
France’s anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said he had previously traveled from Tunisia to the Italian city of Lampedusa on September 20.
He was placed in coronavirus quarantine before his release. He traveled to Paris on October 9, but did not apply for political asylum, reports The Guardian.
A Tunisian official told Al Jazeera that the killer arrived in Nice on Wednesday and was carrying an Italian Red Cross card. He was not on Tunisia’s alleged militant list and there were no red flags, the official said.
He traveled by train – using Red Cross ID – and changed into a Nice train station before going to church early Thursday morning, where he began his attack.
Mr Ricard said the attacker was caught on video surveillance at the train station where he started the 400m walk to the famous church on one of the busiest strips of Nice.
“He arrived at Nice train station and changed his clothes there,” he said.
“He changed his shoes and turned his coat around. He arrived at the Notre-Dame Basilica at 8:29 a.m. and stayed there for a little less than half an hour, during which time he attacked three victims. ”
Witnesses say they heard the attacker shout the words “Allahu akbar” in the moments after the attack.
He was shot but not fatally wounded when French police arrived at the scene and approached them with knives. He was taken into custody.
A picture of Aouissaoui on the ground after the attack was shared by the head of the prestigious SITE Intelligence Group.
OTHER ATTACKS DEVELOPED AT THE SAME TIME
A security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was also stabbed and slightly injured during the attack in Nice. A man was arrested there and state television said the suspect was armed and was described as a sharp tool.
Within a few hours, another incident occurred in Avignon, 250 km from Nice, in which police say a man was shot while he was brandishing a knife. Nobody was reported injured.
It’s unclear whether the attacks are related, but local politicians are already making connections.
Eric Ciotti, a Republican politician and member of the French National Assembly, tweeted: “Attack in Nice, Attack in Avignon, Attack on the French Consulate in Saudi Arabia It is no coincidence that the Islamists want to destroy us.”
The attack comes amid mounting tensions in France resulting from comments by French President Emmanuel Macron and the use of cartoons by the Prophet Muhammad.
47-year-old high school history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 in Paris after teaching his students about the importance of free speech through the cartoons.
He was posthumously awarded the Legion of Honor – France’s highest honor – and French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that the country “will not give up our cartoons”.
In France, cartoons of prophet Mohammed were shown in solidarity with Paty in defense of what many in the country see as values of free speech and secularism.
Macron has said he would redouble his efforts to prevent conservative Islamic beliefs from undermining French values - which has angered many Muslims.
France has taken crackdown on Islam, which is perceived as radical, and has announced that it has searched more than 120 houses and closed a mosque in Paris.
The attack was condemned by world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, who tweeted, “America stands with our oldest ally in this fight” and “These radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately.”
Kind Mayor Christian Estrosi said: “The attacker kept shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’, even after being shot and receiving medical attention.
“Enough is enough. The alleged knife attacker was shot by the police while he was in custody, he is on his way to the hospital, he is alive.
“I have to say that Nice, like France, but perhaps more than other places in the country today, pays too high a price by falling victim to Islamofascism again.”
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