A tragedy struck at 9 am on October 29 just as the mass was underway at Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France. A perpetrator beheaded a woman and killed two others. Within minutes of the attack, police swarmed the area, where they shot and arrested the attacker who reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
The alleged culprit has been identified as Brahim Aoussaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian. Daily Mail reported that he arrived in Europe on a migrant boat just last month. He reportedly attacked the worshippers with a 12-inch blade in the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, slitting the throat of an elderly woman near the church’s holy water in a beheading attempt.
Aoussaoui cut the throat of Sacristan Vincent Loques, a 54-year-old father-of-two, when he was preparing for the first mass of the day, according to BBC. A mother in her 40s also succumbed to her injuries. She went to a nearby bar to seek shelter after being stabbed but eventually died. She had told the paramedics: “Tell my children that I love them.” The attacker was shot 14 times by the police and Nice’s Mayor Christian Estrosi said he was taken to the hospital “while under medication”.
Reportedly, Aoussaoui reached Nice around 6.30 am via the railway station, where he quickly changed his clothes, French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told journalists. Around 8.30 am, according to CCTV footage, he arrived at the church and was there for about half an hour.
According to Daily Mail, Aoussaoui was born in Tunisia in 1999. On September 20, he entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa and arrived in Paris on October 9. The travel information came from a document on Aoussaoui from the Italian Red Cross, the state prosecutor said. Two unused knives, a Quran and two mobile phones, along with a bag containing personal belongings were found by investigators. Richard said the accused was unknown to French security services.
A photo of Aoussaoui bleeding on the floor and being treated by paramedics after he was shot by armed police outside the basilica was tweeted by the head of the SITE organization. This attack happened ahead of the Catholic holy day of All Saints Day on Sunday, November 1, which prompted the French government to raise the terror alert level to the maximum ’emergency’ level nationwide.
Daily Mail reported that Al-Qaeda had published a press release calling for ‘jihad’ over newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Propet Mohammed. President Emmanuel Macron, who immediately traveled to Nice, announced that surveillance of churches by France’s Sentinelle military patrols will be strengthened to 7,000 troops from 3,000. Security at schools would also be increased, he said.
“Quite clearly, it is France that is being attacked,” Macron said, and promised that the country “will not give up on our values”. He also said, “The entire nation will stand so that religion can continue to be exercised freely in our country.” Macron also requested for “unity”, advising people “not to give in to the spirit of division”.
Mourners lit candles outside the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Basilica in Nice and in front of the French Embassy in Berlin. The attacks come amid backlash against French President Emmanuel Macron in the Islamic world for defending satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and less than two weeks after a school teacher was beheaded north of Paris for showing such cartoons to his class in a lesson on free speech.
Daily Mail reported that 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.