Tunisian terrorist Brahim Aoussaoui, 21, is seen smiling in a photo taken in Italian port city of Bari, as he entered mainland Europe
Photograph taken Oct 8, as he was taken off a Covid quarantine ship, where he talked about going to France
Next day Aoussaoui was released by Italian authorities, and it is thought he made his way to Paris on the train
Less than three weeks later he arrived in Nice, entered the Notre Dame basilica, and slaughtered three people
47-year-old male who had contact with Aoussaoui day before the attack has been arrested and is being questioned
Attack came after French President, Emmanuel Macron defended publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
Several Muslim-majority countries have launched campaigns to boycott French products, while protesters burnt the tricolor and posters of Macron
A picture has emerged of Nice church terrorist Brahim Aoussaoui smiling on arrival in Europe, just weeks before massacring three people at a Catholic church in Nice.
Brahim had struggled to find regular work before leaving the country and did ‘various jobs’, a neighbor said. It is believed that he left the country on Sept. 14.
The photograph was taken by authorities in the Italian port city of Bari, where Aoussaoui was taken ashore on October 8 having spent 20 days in coronavirus quarantine – first on the island of Lampedusa, where he landed on September 20, and then on board the Italian quarantine ship Rhapsody.
The ship, carrying some 800 migrants, had been moored off the coast of Bari for 15 days where fellow migrants say Aoussaoui spent most of his time on the phone, talking about how he wanted to go to France.
As he was taken ashore, Aoussaoui had his photograph taken, along with his name, date of birth, and fingerprints.
His records were also checked, but came back clean, according to Italian media. With no criminal record, and having not previously tried to enter Italy, he had not been flagged by security services.
The following day, Aoussaoui was informed that he had no legal right to be in Italy, and was handed an order to leave the country within seven days. But, rather than being deported, Aoussaoui was somehow released.
Leaving Bari, he made his way to Paris on the train on either October 9 or 10, slipping into France undetected.
Authorities believe he laid low in Paris until October 29, the day of the massacre, when he caught the early-morning train to Nice.
Arriving in the city at 6.30am, he is known to have sent a photo of the Notre Dame basilica to his brother Yacine back in Tunisia, saying he wanted to spend the night there.
As the church opened at 8.30am he made his way inside before pulling out a 12-inch blade and launching his attack, slaughtering three people in ‘horrific’ fashion.
The first to die was an as-yet unidentified parishioner in her sixties, a regular at the church who had come to pray first thing in the morning, and who had her throat slit near the church’s font in an attempted beheading.
The next to die was the church’s 54-year-old sacristan Vincent Loquès, who had opened the doors to Aoussaoui and was busy preparing for Mass. Loquès was due to celebrate his birthday on Friday.
Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, another parishioner, was then stabbed multiple times but managed to escape the church around 8.54am, running to a nearby burger bar where she bled to death.
The mother-of-two’s last words to paramedics were: ‘Tell my children that I love them’.
Friends in Brazil said that Silva had been in France for 30 years.
Brahim Jelloule, the owner of the restaurant where she sought refuge before dying, revealed that his brother first saw Silva covered in blood in the street.
Jelloule, who is a Muslim, said his brother and helped Silva inside before going into the church and confronting Aoussaoui, who was still inside an armed with a knife.
The pair fled and called police, who arrived around 9.10am and shot Aoussaoui 14 times as he screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’, a phrase he kept shouting even after being sedated.
Investigators found two unused knives, a Koran and two mobile phones, in addition to a bag with some personal effects.
A picture showing Aoussaoui bleeding on the floor and being treated by paramedics after he was shot by police was tweeted by the head of the respected SITE organization. – The Jihadi was unknown to French security services, Mr Ricard told a press conference.
The Directorate of Anti-Terrorism conducting the investigation found the killer carrying a document in the form of an Italian Red Cross paper in the name of Brahim A.
On Thursday night, French security forces arrested a 47-year-old man in Nice who is thought to have had contact with Aoussaoui the day before the attack and may have provided him with a telephone.
Investigators are looking into Aoussaoui’s contacts – trying to determine whether he was self-radicalized, or was directed to carry out his attack by a terror group.
The attack came just days after Thabat, an al-Qaeda-linked press agency, published a call for Muslims to wage ‘jihad’ (holy war) in France over newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet.
Prosecutors in Tunisia have also opened an investigation into Aoussaoui’s contacts and life before he left the country, including whether he had links to terror groups.
The country’s top prosecutor has said the 21-year-old was not being monitored by anti-terror forces previously, but will probe further.
The Nice terror attack also come on the tail of days of attacks on the French president in Islamic countries over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, led by Turkey’s President Erdogan.
On Saturday, Erdogan launched a broadside at Macron, whom he said needs to undergo ‘mental checks’ for treating ‘millions of members from different faith groups this way’.
At a rally the following day he redoubled his attack, accusing Macron of being ‘obsessed with Erdogan day and night’.
On Monday, he stepped up his attacks even further, describing European leaders as ‘fascists’ and ‘links in the chains of Nazism’ for what he called the persecution of Muslims in Europe.
Erdogan added that Muslims on the continent ‘are now subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II’.
Singling out Macron, he told European leaders to ‘put and end’ to what he called the French President’s ‘anti-Islam’ agenda.
On Wednesday the row escalated once again, after Charlie Hebdo published a front-page cartoon of Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside, while saying: ‘Ooh, the Prophet.’
The cartoon appeared underneath a headline which read: ‘Erdogan: In private, he’s very funny’.
The Turkish leader condemned ‘scoundrels’ for publishing the cartoon and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the crusades’.
‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’.
Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon.
The day after his remarks were published, the attack on the church in Nice was launched. Since then, Erdogan has not spoken publicly against Macron or France, though his spokesman defended his earlier remarks – while defending the attack.
‘We owe no apology to anyone for expressing our strong opposition to racism and xenophobia,’ the spokesman said.
Aoussaoui’s family, speaking from the impoverished Tunisian town of Bouhajla where he lived before going to Europe, said he had been in contact with them since arriving in France.
From the Tunisian province of Sfax, mother Kmar, wept as she at the interview that she was surprised to hear her son was in France when he called upon his arrival and had no idea what he was planning.
‘You don’t know the French language, you don’t know anyone there, you’re going to live alone there, why, why did you go there?’ she said she told him over the phone at the time.
His brother told the Al Arabiya TV network: ‘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.’
He then spoke of the family’s shock when they discovered that Brahim was responsible for the terrorist attack on the church in Nice..
‘What we saw in the images is him, our son,’ they said.
Brahim had struggled to find regular work before leaving the country and did ‘various jobs’, a neighbor said.
Meanwhile the Tunisian judicial spokesman said Brahim had not been classified as a hardliner before leaving the country, and was not known to security forces. He said Brahim had left the country on or around September 14.
The killings, which occurred ahead of the Catholic holy day of All Saints Day on Sunday – and on the day that Sunni Muslims mark the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday – prompted the French government to raise the terror alert level to the maximum ’emergency’ level nationwide.
Counter-terrorism police last night arrested a 47-year-old man in Nice on suspicion of being an accomplice to the knifeman and providing him with one of two mobile phones that the attacker was found with.
The man is believed to have been in close contact with the 21-year-old jihadist on Wednesday, the day before the attack, police sources told French media.
President Emmanuel Macron, who quickly travelled to Nice, announced surveillance of churches by France’s Sentinelle military patrols would be bolstered to 7,000 troops from 3,000.
Security at schools would also be boosted, he said. ‘Quite clearly, it is France that is being attacked,’ Macron said, and vowed the country ‘will not give up on our values’.
He threw his weight behind the Catholic church, saying: ‘The entire nation will stand so that religion can continue to be exercised freely in our country.’
Macron called for ‘unity’ urging people ‘not to give in to the spirit of division’.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, speaking on French radio on Friday, added that France is ‘at war… against an ideology, the Islamist ideology, which wants to impose its cultural codes, its way of living… through terror.’
He said France was a ‘big target’ for terrorists because it symbolizes freedom, secular society, and the rule of law – pointing to the ongoing trial of 14 people charged over the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.
‘Islamism is a form of fascism in the 21st century,’ he added, ‘an extremism that we must fight.’
In his own comments, Eric Ciotti, deputy of the Alpes-Maritime region where Nice is located, said France has now ‘become the preferred target of terrorists’ and the Nice in particular has become a ‘martyr city’.
Having spoken to Macron since the attack, Ciotti said he has ‘noted a change in tone from the President.’
‘He was very wrong in giving the impression of flattering the different communities,’ said Eric Ciotti.
‘I expect a profound, radical change in policy.’
Ciotti said he has called on Macron ‘to stop all forms of immigration’ and has received assurances that a ‘moratorium on bogus asylum seekers’ will follow shortly.
As part of the ‘change of tone’, Darmanin confirmed that 18 suspected Islamists will be expelled from France in the coming days, in addition to 14 that were expelled after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded.
The attack comes amid fury across the Islamic world at President Macron for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and on the day that Sunni Muslims mark the Prophet’s birthday.
Several Muslim-majority countries have launched campaigns to boycott French products, while protesters burnt the tricolor and posters of Macron at demonstrations in Syria, Libya, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine.