Macron says France is “under attack” after a Tunisian attacker who killed three people at a church in Nice on Thursday had only recently arrived in Europe according to officials.
French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard confirmed at a press conference on Thursday that the suspect, aged about 20, was a Tunisian, who has been identified by French police as Brahim Aouissaoui.
Ricard noted that the attacker had documents of the Italian Red Cross in the name of a native of Tunisia born in 1999. “According to the information we have, he entered Italy through the island of Lampedusa on September 20. He then arrived in Paris on October 9, 2020,” he said.
The prosecutor added that the suspect was carrying a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, two telephones, and a 30cm (12-inch) knife on him at the time of the attack.
“We also found a bag left by the attacker. Next to this bag were two knives that were not used in the attack,” he added.
He had not been on the radar of intelligence agencies as a potential threat.
Three people were attacked inside the Notre-Dame basilica on Thursday morning before the first Mass of the day. One of the victims, a 60-year-old woman, was found at the entrance of the church “virtually beheaded,” while a 55-year-old man, the church’s sacristan, also died from a fatal wound to the throat. He reportedly had a wife and two children.
The third victim, a 44-year-old woman, managed to flee the church to a nearby cafe after being stabbed several times but later died.
Meanwhile, the attacker was shot at least 14 times by police who arrived on the scene and is currently in critical condition in hospital.
“Our country suffered an Islamist terrorist attack,” Macron said near the Notre-Dame Basilica, where the assailant committed the attack earlier in the day, killing two women and a man and wounding several other people.
“It is very clearly France that is attacked—at the same time we had a French consular site attacked in Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah, at the same time arrests were being made on our territory.”
Two other attacks took place on Thursday, one in France and one in Saudi Arabia. A man was shot dead in Montfavet near the southern French city of Avignon after threatening police with a handgun.
The French embassy in Saudi Arabia said an assailant with a knife had attacked a security guard outside the French consulate in Jeddah. The suspect was arrested and the guard taken to hospital.
France has raised its national terror alert guidance to its highest “emergency” level, and Macron said the number of soldiers on the streets will be raised from 3,000 to 7,000, while further troops will be deployed to boost security at schools, churches, and other places of worship.
With reporting from AP.