Disturbing details of terrorist emerge
A 21-year-old man who recently arrived in Europe from Tunisia is behind the sickening terror attack at a church in the French Riviera city of Nice.
Brahim Aouissaoui has been identified as the man who beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a bloody rampage at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in the centre of the popular coastal tourist city at 9am local time on Thursday.
He entered the church with a large knife and reportedly decapitated a 60-year-old woman whose dying words were, "Tell my children that I love them".
He stabbed to death the church's 55-year-old sacristan - who is charge of taking care of the church - and left a third victim, a 44-year-old woman - so badly injured that she died from her wounds at a nearby restaurant having fled the gruesome scene.
More than 12 hours after his deadly attack, as night falls in Nice, details are emerging about the knifeman.
Police say Aouisaoui was born in Tunisia in 1999 and arrived in Europe as recently as Wednesday.
He was originally from the village of Sidi Omar Bouhajla, near Kairouan, but had moved to Sfax with his family before heading to Europe.
France's anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard says he travelled from Tunisia to the Italian city of Lampedusa on September 20 before.
He was placed in coronavirus quarantine before being released. He travelled to Paris on October 9 but did not make a bid for political asylum, The Guardian reports.
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 suspected militant list and there were no red flags, the official said.
It is believed he travelled by train - using the Red Cross identity document - and changed clothes at a train station in Nice before walking to the church early on Thursday morning where he began his attack.
Mr Ricard said the attacker was caught on CCTV at the train station where he began the 400m walk to the famous church on one of Nice's busiest strips.
Witnesses say the 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 on the scene and he advanced towards them with the knife. He has been taken into custody.
OTHER ATTACKS UNFOLDED SIMULTANEOUSLY
As the attack in Nice was unfolding, a security guard at the French Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was also stabbed and left with minor injuries. A man there has been arrested, with state television saying the suspect was armed with has been described as a sharp tool.
Within hours, another incident was taking place in Avignon, 250km from Nice, where a man was shot while brandishing a knife, according to police. Nobody else has been reported injured.
It is unclear if the attacks are related, but local politicians are already drawing links.
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 not a coincidence, the Islamists want to annihilate us."
BREAKING - Knife stabbing attack at Notre-Dame church in Nice. One dead and several injured. pic.twitter.com/EOoQGL2yHG— Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) October 29, 2020
The attack comes amid growing tensions in France over comments from French President Emmanuel Macron and the use of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
High school history teacher Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 in Paris after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
He was posthumously given the Legion d'Honneur - France's highest award - and French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the country would "not give up our cartoons".
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.
France has launched a crackdown on what it perceives to be radical Islam, announcing it has searched more than 120 homes and closed down a mosque in Paris.
The attack has been condemned by leaders around the world, including US President Donald Trump, who tweeted that "America stands with our oldest ally in this fight" and "these radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately".
Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight. These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2020
Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said: "The attacker kept shouting 'Allahu Akbar' even after he had been shot and as he was given medical care.
"Enough is enough. The suspected knife attacker was shot by police while being detained, he is on his way to hospital, he is alive.
"I must say that Nice, like France, but perhaps more than other places in the country today, is paying too heavy a price by being once again the victim of islamofascism."
Originally published as Disturbing details of terrorist emerge