France Terror Suspect Had Arrived In Europe From Tunisia On Migrant Boat 1 Month Prior To Killings, Official Says

(Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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The man suspected of killing three people in a church in France had reportedly arrived in Europe by migrant boat from Tunisia a month prior to the attack, officials said, according to BBC.

An identity picture of the Nice assailant Brahim Issaoui, who a day earlier killed three people and wounded several others in the southern French city of Nice, is pictured at his family home in the Tunisian city of Sfax, on October 30, 2020. (Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images)

The 21-year-old Tunisian suspect reportedly was carrying an Italian Red Cross identity document that was issued after his arrival in Lampedusa, an Italian island, in September, according to the BBC

Jean-François Ricard, France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor, said that the attacker, identified as Brahim Aouissaoui, had arrived in the Italian city of Bari on Oct. 9, according to Reuters. Weeks later, the suspect arrived by train to Nice with his Red Cross documents, then changed his clothes at the train station before walking to the church to carry out the attack, Reuters reported.

Tunisia has opened an investigation into Aouissaoui, who was not listed by Tunisian police as a suspected militant before he left the country in September, according to Reuters. Aouissaoui was also not known to French intelligence services, a police source said, according to Reuters.

The suspect had been living in Sfax, a major port and point of departure for Tunisians trying to make the illegal crossing into Europe. The port is roughly 80 miles from Lampedusa.

Aouissaoui was shot by police and is in critical condition, according to the BBC. France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced that the country has deployed 7,000 soldiers to protect public places like churches and schools, and has raised the nation’s national security alert to the highest level.

The elderly victim that was “virtually beheaded” in the attack at Notre-Dame basilica had come to pray, BBC reported. Two of the people who died were killed inside the church, and a woman was able to flee to a nearby cafe after being stabbed several times before dying later that day. 

One of the victims was identified as Vincent Loqués, 55, a father of two children. He also reportedly had his throat cut, according to the Guardian. The woman who fled was identified by the Brazilian press as Simone Barreto Silva, a mother of three originally from Salvador, according to the Guardian.

The killings are being investigated by France’s anti-terror prosecutors, and come two weeks after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded after showing students the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, published by the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine in 2015, during a lesson on freedom of speech.

Multiple attacks took place within hours of the attack in Nice, or were foiled by police. Police killed a man who was threatening passerby with a gun in another French city, Montfavet, while yelling “Allahu akbar,” Europe 1 reported according to Reuters.

A woman lights a candle in front of the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 30, 2020 during a tribute to the victims killed by a knife attacker the day before. (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

An Afghan national armed with a long knife was arrested in Lyon while trying to board a tram. The individual was already flagged to intelligence services, according to i24 News.

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a Saudi man was arrested after attacking a guard at the French consulate with a knife. The French Embassy said the guard was hospitalized and his life is not in danger from the injuries, Reuters reported. (RELATED: Attacker Screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ Decapitates One, Kills Two Others At French Church)

Nice was previously targeted by a 31-year-old Tunisian in 2016, who drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people. Only days after the attack, Father Jacques Hamel, a priest, had his throat slit during Mass at a church in Rouen by two Muslim extremists who pledged their allegiance to ISIS, according to the BBC.