The Islamist attack on Thursday (October 29th) in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption in Nice killed three people: a sixty-year-old mother of Brazilian nationality, and the church priest. We take stock of what we know about the assailant, a Tunisian who landed in Italy on September 20.
- The unfolding of the facts
According to the first elements of the investigation, the perpetrator was first spotted on Thursday at 6:47 a.m. on a surveillance video in Nice train station and released at 8:13 a.m. He had changed his down jacket and his shoes. The attack then began at precisely 8:29 a.m., the minute the terrorist entered the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption of Nice. He remained there“just under half an hour, during which time he attacked three victims,”said the prosecutor of the Anti-Terrorism Republic Jean-François Ricard. One of the victims – a Brazilian mother – escaped at 8:54 a.m., before succumbing to her injuries near a bar across the street.
Alerted by the facts, several municipal police officers are deployed in the church. In front of them, the assailant, threatening and armed with a 17 cm blade. “Thisman had come towards them shouting ‘Allah Akbar’, forcing them to use an electric pulse pistol first and then firing their service weapon several times,”Ricard said. A bag of personal belongings, a Koran and two telephones, as well as two unused knives were also discovered. The terrorist, who was seriously injured, was taken to hospital. His life-threatening condition was still on Thursday night.
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- The investigation will be“complex,”the prosecutor raised the claim on Thursday night. Like Abdoullakh Anzorov, the Chechen who beheaded Samuel Paty,the perpetrator of the Nice attack was unknown to French intelligence services. It was also not on the fingerprint file. What we do know, however, is that he had recently arrived on the national territory.
Investigators, who identified the perpetrator as a 21-year-old Tunisian – after discovering an Italian Red Cross document at the scene – found that he had entered Italy via Lampedusa via a boat loaded with migrants on 20 September. “Hesecondly landed in Bari on 9 October,”the prosecutor said.
Although he had never applied for asylum or refugee status, he had been spotted by the Italian authorities, and was even“the subject of an Italian decree of re-deportation,”according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. According to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere , the Tunisian born in 1999 was not detained for repatriation to his country. “Hewas not excluded for reasons that can possibly be understood, because of the Covid or the lack of space in the detention centres,” Gerald Darmanin explained on RTL. I don’t blame the Italian government (but) it was spotted on (their) territory, and came (to France) to commit an attack.»
- Possibly in contact with a 47-year-old man
On the night of the attack, a 47-year-old man was taken into custodyon suspicion of having been in contact with the perpetrator on Wednesday.
The anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office is currently investigating“murders and attempted murders in connection with a terrorist enterprise”and“criminal terrorist criminal association”,coordinated by the Counter-Terrorism Branch (Sdat). “Theinvestigation is actively continuing in order to clarify the precise course of events of the author’s journey as well as the possible complicity which he may have benefited from,”the anti-terrorism prosecutor concluded on Thursday evening.