Pictured smiling just weeks before massacring three people at a Catholic church in Nice, this is the face of terrorist killer Brahim Aoussaoui as he entered mainland Europe.
The picture 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 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. He had no criminal record, had not previously tried to enter Italy, and 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 released.
It is not clear exactly when he left Bari, but it is thought he made his way to Paris on the train on either October 9 or 10, allowing him to cross the border into France undetected.
It is then thought that he stayed in the French capital 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 – the same church he would later attack – to his brother back in Tunisia, saying he wanted to spend the night there.
As the church opened at 8.30am he made his way inside, staying there for around half an hour before pulling out a 12-inch blade and launching his attack, killing three people in ‘horrific’ fashion.
Nice terrorist Brahim Aoussaoui is seen in a photograph taken at the Italian port city of Bari, where he disembarked from a coronavirus quarantine ship on October 8 – marking his arrival in mainland Europe
The first to die was an as-yet unidentified parishioner in her sixties, 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 Loques, who had opened the doors to Aoussaoui just 30 minutes earlier, and was busy preparing for the first Mass of the day.
Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, another parishioner, was then stabbed multiple times but managed to escape the church, running to a nearby burger bar where she bled to death.
The mother-of-three’s last words to paramedics were: ‘Tell my children that I love them’.
A local called police who arrived around 9.10am and shot Aoussaoui 14 times as he screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ – God is greatest in Arabic – a phrase he kept shouting even after being sedated and put into an ambulance.
Investigators found two unused knives, a Koran and two mobile phones, in addition to a bag with some personal effects. He was unknown to French security services, Mr Ricard told a press conference.
Brahim Aoussaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, receives medical treatment after killing three worshippers
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 organisation.
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 – sending them a photo of the Notre Dame cathedral before carrying out his attack.
His brother told the Al Arabiya TV network: ‘He [Brahim Aoussaoui] 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 told of the family’s shock that Brahim Aoussaoui was responsible for the terrorist attack.
‘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 neighbour 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.
It followed warnings of further terrorist atrocities just days before the church rampage, after Al-Qaeda published a press release calling for ‘jihad’ (holy war) over newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet.
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,’ Mr 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.’ He also 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 symbolises 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.’
VICTIM: Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, also succumbed to her injuries after seeking refuge in a nearby burger bar. Her last words were to paramedics, who she told: ‘Tell my children that I love them’
VICTIM: Vincent Loques, 54, a sacristan of the Notre Dame basilica in the city of Nice, was brutally killed as he prepared for the first Mass of the day after 21-year-old Tunisian migrant Brahim Aoussaoui attacked the church
KILLER’S MOTHER: Kmar (right), the mother of Nice attacker Brahim Aouissaoui who killed three people in Thursday’s terror attack, cries at her home in Tunisia last night after being questioned by counter-terrorism police
Forensic officers work at night in front of Notre Dame Basilica in Nice after a terror attack on a Catholic church
Forensic officers work at night in a coffee shop near Notre Dame Basilica in Nice following an Islamist terror attack
Three people have died after a knifeman attacked the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, before he was shot by police
President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
French coroners carry out the body of one of the three people killed at the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice
People light candles outside the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice following an Islamist terror attack
Tribute to the victims of the attack on the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice, with mourners holding the tricolor flag by the church
People mourn as they attend a commemoration for the victims killed during an in a church attack in Nice
Muslim faithfuls pray at the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica in Marseille, south-eastern France
French police officers secure the street near the entrance of the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice
Emmanuel Macron takes part in a video conference on Covid-19 with members of the European Council at the Elysee Palace
Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, French Prime Minister Jean Castex and President of Bishops’ Conference of France Eric de Moulins-Beaufort talk to the press after their meeting at the Matignon Hotel in Paris
People mourn as they attend a commemoration for the victims killed during a church attack in Nice
People light candles outside the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice in a vigil to remember the victims
A woman places a candle at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Nice attack, in front of the French embassy in Berlin
Darmanin also confirmed that 18 suspected Islamists will be expelled from the country in the coming days, in addition to 14 that were expelled after the last terror attack in which teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded.
Mourners attended vigils to pay tribute to the victims of the triple killing last night. They lit candles outside the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice and in front of the French Embassy in Berlin.
There were also tears in Tunisia where the attacker’s mother, Kmar, wept after being questioned by police at her home in Sfax.
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 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.
Also on a day of terror for France:
- A security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed and wounded;
- A man armed with a knife was arrested in Sartrouville near a church after vowing ‘to do as in Nice’;
- An Afghan man was arrested in Lyon trying to board a train while armed with a long knife;
- Malaysia’s ex-PM said that Muslims have a right ‘to kill millions of French people’ if Islam is insulted;
- French politicians lined up to demand tougher action against what Nice’s mayor branded ‘Islamo-fascism’;
- Online jihadists celebrated the triple killing in France and Saudi Arabia yesterday, a report by SITE said
Fellow migrants who had travelled to Europe with Aoussaoui told how he was constantly on the phone while interned on a coronavirus quarantine ship after arriving in Italy in September.
Aoussaoui told fellow Tunisian migrants he wanted to leave the country as soon as possible and travel to France where he had relatives, Italy’s Il Corriere della Serra newspaper reported.
The 21-year-old had landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa – close to the coast of north Africa – in a rickety make-shift boat with about dozen other migrants on 20 September.
Aoussaoui was interned on a large government rented ship along with about 50 other migrants – mostly Tunisians – to undergo a period of quarantine to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The group disembarked at the mainland port of Bari two weeks later, where he was processed and ordered to leave the country.
Il Corriere della Serra reported: ‘Those who were with him [Brahim Aoussaoui] during the days of medical quarantine said that Brahim Aoussaoui spent most of his time on his mobile phone.
‘He said he wanted to go to France where he had relatives.
‘Those who knew him in those days in the repatriation centres reported yesterday to the anti-terrorism investigators that he often spoke on the phone, and was intent on reaching France.’
The newspaper added that Aoussaoui had most likely been radicalized in his hometown and left Tunisia with ‘the worst intensions’.
It reported: ‘On 20 September, when Aoussaoui arrived in Lampedusa he was on one of 28 migrants boats that arrived that day.
‘At least 300 migrants arrived that day, almost all Tunisians who had left their country.
In the Nice attack, the first victim – a woman in her sixties – was attacked after coming there early to pray and was found ‘almost beheaded’ close to the church font.
The 45-year-old sacristan, Vincent Loques, a father-of-two, was then attacked and also beheaded.
Another woman – now identified as Simone Barreto Silva – was then stabbed ‘multiple times’ and managed to flee to a bar across the street, where she died.
Police were called and arrived at 9.10am. They stormed the basilica, shooting and arresting the attacker.
The attacker is a 21-year-old Tunisian who is thought to have arrived in France via Italy, after being smuggled across the Mediterranean.
According to Italian newspaper Ill Messaggero, Aoussaoui arrived on the island of Lampedusa on September 20 before being transferred to coronavirus quarantine.
He was then taken to a migrant centre on the Italian mainland on October 9, before being told to leave Italian territory and released. From there, he made his way to France. It is not clear precisely when he arrived.
Italian security services are now investigating why Aoussaoui was freed rather than detained awaiting deportation.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said Aoussaoui ‘kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated’, and that ‘the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt’.
‘Enough is enough,’ he said. ‘It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.’
Estrosi said the victims had been killed in a ‘horrible way’. ‘The methods match, without doubt, those used against the brave teacher in Conflans Sainte Honorine, Samuel Paty,’ he said.
Meanwhile Eric Ciotti, a local councillor, tweeted: ‘I have just asked President Macron to suspend all migratory flows and all asylum procedures, particularly at the Italian border. We must protect the French!’
In Sartrouville, north of Paris, a man was arrested around 1pm after his father called police and said his son had left home and planned ‘to do as in Nice.’
Police stopped the man in his car near a local church, and Le Parisien reports that he was in possession of a knife. The car was searched, but nothing else was found.
Meanwhile in Lyon, an Afghan man in his 20s was arrested while trying to board a tram carrying a long knife. The man was known to French intelligence services.
In Avignon, a man armed with a handgun began threatening people in the Montfavet around 11.15am while shouting Allahu Akbar, France1 reported.
Police rushed to the scene and confronted the man, who refused to drop his weapon. Police then shot the man with a Taser, which failed to stop him, so they opened fire with live ammunition, killing him.
French anti-terror investigators have announced they are leading the probe into the attack in Nice, but have not yet taken up the investigation in Avignon.
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, a man was arrested after stabbing a guard at the French consulate with ‘a sharp tool’. The attacker was arrested while the guard was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
France’s embassy in Riyadh condemned the ‘attack on diplomatic premises which can never be justified’.
A woman, believed to be the wife of the church warden (wearing the beige jumper) is seen at the scene of the attack in Nice
A woman, believed to be a close friend of one of the victims, weeps in front of the basilica after three people were killed
It is thought the woman was a close friend of the church warden, named locally as Vincent L, who was killed in the attack
Police swarmed the area around 9am, running into the church before the attacker was shot and arrested. Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker kept shouting Allahu Akbar even after being medicated
French President Emmanuel Macron and Nice mayor Christian Estrosi (standing to his right) meet police officers after a terror attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
Police officers stand guard near Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, after a terror attack
Special forces stand guard near the scene of a reported knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice
It was initially thought police had foiled another Islamist attack in Avignon, when an armed man was shot dead, but he later turned out to be a member of a far-Right organisation
French diplomats also called on Saudi authorities to ‘shed light on this attack’ and ensure the safety of French people in the kingdom.
‘We call on our colleagues in Saudi Arabia to show maximum vigilance,’ the embassy said after Saudi security forces apprehended the suspect, who is said to be a Saudi national in his 40s.
The Nice attack happened less than half a mile from where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in 2016, killing dozens.
Emmanuel Macron led an emergency cabinet meeting on the attack before leaving for Nice, where he is expected to arrive shortly.
French politicians were taking part in a debate on the country’s new coronavirus restrictions when news of the attack reached them.
They observed a minute of silence before the debate broke up so an emergency security meeting could be held.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex moved the threat level from ‘risk of attack’ to the ’emergency level’, meaning threats are imminent.
Images on French media showed the neighborhood locked down and surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. Sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.
The Catholic Church issued a statement, condemning the ‘unspeakable act’ and saying that ‘Christians must not become a symbol to be cut down.’
Catholic bishops in France called for all church bells to ring at 3pm in solidarity with the victims, before adding: ‘It is urgent that this gangrene be stopped as it is urgent that we find the indispensable fraternity which will hold us all upright in the face of these threats’
Pope Francis was among those leading an outpouring of sympathy, saying: ‘I pray for the victims, for their families and for the beloved French people, so that they can react to evil with good.’
Former French Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande also issued statements, the former condemning an ‘act of barbarism’ and calling on people to oppose ‘the enemies of democracy; while the latter vowed that ‘democracy is our weapon… in the face of Islamist terrorism’.
Tunisia strongly condemned a deadly ‘terrorist’ attack at the church in Nice and said it launched an investigation after reports the assailant was Tunisian.
‘Tunisia strongly condemns the terrorist incident in Nice and expresses its solidarity with the government and people of France,’ said a statement from the foreign ministry.
The North African state stressed its ‘rejection of all forms of terrorism and extremism,’ and warned against ‘ideological and political exploitation of religions,’ according to the statement.
The assailant, who was shot by police and arrested, is reportedly a Tunisian migrant who recently arrived in France via Lampedusa, Italy, according to sources close to the case.
Condemnation came from US President Donald Trump, UN chief Antonio Guterres, as well as European, Arab and Israeli leaders.
‘Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest Ally in this fight,’ Trump tweeted. ‘These Radical Islamic terrorist attacks must stop immediately. No country, France or otherwise can long put up with it!’
Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden vowed to crack down on ‘extremist violence’ if elected.
‘Jill and I are keeping the French people in our prayers following the horrific terror attack in Nice – which targeted innocents in a house of worship,’ he said on Twitter.
‘A Biden-Harris administration will work with our allies and partners to prevent extremist violence in all forms.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has extended his condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron and families of the victims of the attack in Nice.
In a telegram quoted by the Kremlin, Putin called the attack ‘a cynical and a cruel crime inside a church’ and said that ‘the notions of human morals are absolutely alien to terrorists.’
Saudi Arabia ‘strongly condemned’ deadly stabbings Thursday in the French city of Nice, which authorities are investigating as the latest terrorist attack in France.
A knife-wielding man killed three people at a church in Nice on Thursday, slitting the throat of at least one of them, in an attack that triggered global shock.
‘We strongly condemn and denounce the terrorist attack that occurred… in Nice, France, which resulted in the death and injury of a number of people,’ the Saudi foreign ministry said on Twitter.
‘We reiterate the kingdom’s categorical rejection of such extremist acts that are inconsistent with all religions, human beliefs and common sense, and we affirm the importance of rejecting practices that generate hatred, violence and extremism.’
The French Council of Muslim Worship also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.
‘As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their relatives, I call on the Muslims of France to cancel all the festivities of the Mawlid feast,’ which takes place on October 28 and 29.
The attack is just the latest to strike France, after history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in another attack north of Paris.
Paty was stabbed by an 18-year-old Chechen after he showed the cartoons to his students during a lesson on free speech.
French politicians were taking part in a coronavirus lockdown debate when the news reached them – and held a minute of silence in the chamber (pictured)
General view of the Black Carpet to pay tribute to victims of the attack in Nice at the Cannes Festival
Players and referees at the OGC Nice v Hapoel Be’er Sheva game in Allianz Riviera, Nice, line up before the match in a minute silence to commemorate the victims of the Nice killings
Parents of pupils at the school had led a campaign against him, before the attack took place. Seven have been arrested.
Just a few weeks earlier, an 18-year-old Pakistani stabbed a wounded two people outside the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The man has admitted to police that he was targeting the magazine for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke out to condemn the attack, tweeting: ‘I am appalled to hear the news from Nice this morning of a barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica.
‘Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed ‘solidarity’ with France, saying she is ‘deeply moved by the cruel murders in a church in Nice.’
‘I condemn the odious and brutal attack that has just taken place in Nice and I am with France with all my heart,’ European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
‘We will remain united and determined in the face of barbarity and fanaticism.’
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte condemned a ‘cowardly attack’ and said: ‘Our convictions are stronger than fanaticism, hatred and terror. We embrace the families of the victims and our French brothers. We are united!’
Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez added: ‘We continue to defend freedom, our democratic values, peace and the security of our citizens.’
A harder tone came from Hungary, where populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban wrote that the attack showed clearly ‘that our culture, our way of life and our European values are in the cross hairs of extremist terrorism.
‘We are ready to join forces in order to protect traditional European values and the traditional European way of life,’ Orban added.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who previously governed with far-right ministers, called the murders in Nice ‘a despicable Islamist terror attack.
‘France has our full solidarity. We will defend our values and European ‘way of life’ with all our might against Islamists and political Islam,’ Kurz said.
It also comes amid mass protests in many Islamic countries against Emmanuel Macron, after the French President spoke up in defence of the cartoons.
Tweeting in Arabic, he wrote: ‘Nothing makes us hold back, ever. We respect all differences in the spirit of peace. We never accept hate speech and defend rational debate.
‘We will always stand by human dignity and universal values.’
His remarks have prompted demonstrations in Gaza, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and boycotts of French products in Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and Palestinian territories.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led outrage at Macron, suggesting that he is mentally ill and needs to have his health evaluated.
On Thursday, Ankara said strongly condemned Thursday’s ‘savage’ knife attack in southern France that left three people dead, offering its ‘solidarity’, despite a running diplomatic spat with Paris.
‘We strongly condemn the attack committed today inside the Notre-Dame church in Nice,’ a foreign ministry statement said, while offering condolences to the victims’ relatives.
Tunisians take part in a protest against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France
Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Tunisia on Thursday, as anger at the publication of cartoon of Mohammed spread across the Muslim world
Marchers gathered on the streets of Tunisia on Thursday, following on from marches in Gaza, Bangladesh and Pakistan
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it ‘stands as a government and people with… France in combatting this hateful incident’. Qatar voiced strong condemnation and reiterated its rejection of violence and terrorism, especially against places of worship and regardless of the motives
The foreign ministry also expressed condolences to the victim’s families.
Lebanese prime minister designate Saad Hariri voiced his ‘strongest condemnation and disapproval of the heinous criminal attack,’ and urged Muslims ‘to reject this criminal act that has nothing to do with Islam or the Prophet’.
The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened on Wednesday as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside.
Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.
‘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’.
Erdogan’s spokesman on Thursday deflected blame over the attack in France, saying ‘we categorically deny any effort to associate us with any kind of violence.’
‘We will continue to confront any politician who insults our religion and values. We feel we owe no apology to anyone for expressing our strong opposition to racism and xenophobia,’ he said.
‘Our President has always called for cooperation against terrorism and extremism. We renew that call while we reject the damaging rhetoric and actions against our religion and culture regardless of its ideological source.’
Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.
A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month.
President Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world.
Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan called for an end to ‘attacks on Islam’, saying the West should be willing to treat blasphemy in the same way as Holocaust denial.
Meanwhile Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’.
Indian Muslims burn posters of Emmanuel Macron during protest against his defence of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
Thousands of Muslims gathered in Bhopal, India, to protest against Macron’s comments defending cartoons of the Prophet
Protesters in Bhopal also joined calls for a boycott of French products that is already underway in some Muslim countries
Pakistani journalists hold placards with the name of Mohammed on them as they demonstrate in Karachi, Pakistan
Muslims demonstrators burn posters of Emmanel Macron during a protest in Quetta, Pakistan, on Thursday