‘Tell My Family I Love Them’: A Mother, a 60-Year-Old Woman, and a Church Layman Slain in Nice Terror Attack

NICE, FRANCE - OCTOBER 29: Police patrol at night in front of basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice, France. A man armed with a knife fatally attacked three people in the church, located in the heart of the city. (Photo by Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images)
Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images

The victims of Thursday’s Islamist terror attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame of Nice have been identified as a 60-year-old woman, a mother, and a church sacristan.

The assailant has also been identified as a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, named, according to multiple sources speaking to French media, as Brahim Aouissaoui. Italian Red Cross documents also name the man as Aouissaoui. However, judicial sources have told L’Express that his identity has not been formally confirmed.

The Tunisian came to France just this month, after having arrived on September 20th on the Italian island of Lampedusa, which has become a landing ground for illegal aliens and asylum seekers from North Africa trying to enter Europe. Sources told L’Express that Italian authorities had put the suspect in quarantine, before releasing him and subjecting him to a deportation decree. He had reportedly not applied for asylum in France and was not known to French security services.

The knife attack occurred at around 9 am local time on the grounds of the church in the southern city of Nice. The suspect had killed three, nearly decapitating one, with a six-inch blade and injured several others, while reportedly shouting the Islamist war cry, “Allah hu Akbar!” ([my] god is greater [than yours]).

Municipal police shot and injured the man, who admitted to being called “Brahim” but claimed to be 25. Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi told media that the terrorist would not stop uttering the “Allah hu Akbar” phrase even as he lay injured in the floor. He was then taken to hospital where he is still receiving medical treatment.

Authorities said they had discovered some of the terrorist’s belongings, including a copy of the Quran, two other unused knives, and two mobile phones.

The anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office confirmed that it had opened an investigation for “assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise, attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise and criminal association of terrorist criminals”.

Suspicions have been raised that it was not a lone-wolf attack, with Nice-Matin reporting a suspected accomplice — a 47-year-old man — had also been taken into police custody after it was believed he had been in contact with Aouissaoui before the killings.

Police sources speaking to Le Figaro revealed that the first of the three victims is a woman aged around 60, who came to pray at the sunrise service. She was found “almost beheaded” near the font.

Canon Philippe Asso told the newspaper that the second victim killed inside the church was the sacristan, who is in charge of the day-to-day care and maintenance of the church plate and vestments. Vincent, 54, was a father of two daughters and had worked at Notre-Dame de Nice for ten years.

A second woman, a 44-year-old mother of three, was stabbed several times and seriously injured before managing to escape Aouissaoui. She was a Brazilian national, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, living in France. Taking refuge in a nearby bar, one witness reportedly said the woman’s dying words were: “Tell my family that I love them.”

Yesterday’s incidents saw a rash of other attacks on French interests. In Avignon, Provence, a man reportedly shouting “Allah hu Akbar” while pointing a gun was shot dead by police during an exchange of fire. The incident occurred just two hours after the Nice terror attack.

A potential copycat attack was foiled in Yvelines, as well, on Thursday.  The suspect, who had been on the country’s terrorist ‘S-File’ list, was taken into custody after his father informed authorities that he wanted to “do as in Nice”.

Yvelines is significant, as it is the French department outside of Paris where 18-year-old Islamist Chechen refugee Aboulakh Anzorov beheaded teacher Samuel Paty for showing satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet, Mohammed, during a freedom of speech lesson earlier this month.

In Lyon, authorities arrested a 26-year-old Afghan migrant, some two and a half hours after the Nice attack, for brandishing a 12-inch knife near a tram station. The suspect is known to security services for his connections to radical Islam. Media claims he has mental health issues.

While in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a guard at the French consulate was stabbed. The guard is said to be in a stable condition, with the assailant having been arrested.

All these incidents come in the wake of rising anger in the Muslim world over French President Emmanuel Macron’s staunch defence of secular values, including freedom of speech, following the murder of Mr Paty.

On Thursday, the former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, declared on social media that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” Facebook and Twitter later took down the posts. However, despite calls from the French government, Mohamad’s Twitter account has not been suspended.

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