Brahim al-Aouissaoui made a video call with his family in Tunisia in the early hours of Thursday. According to members of his family, they only exchanged a few words, and he told them that he had arrived in Nice and found a place to sleep: a staircase near a church. Shortly after the call, French police said, the young Tunisian entered the church and killed three people, beheading one, while shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
From Tunisia to the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice
“He told us that he had just arrived and he didn’t know anyone there … he said he would leave the building and look for a Tunisian to talk to, see if he could live with him or find a job.” , said Yassin, the attacker’s brother, for Reuters.
As in the case of the attacker who beheaded a teacher near Paris two weeks ago, Aouissaoui is the type of attacker who gives nightmares to any police force involved in the fight against terrorism. This is because the Tunisian, although he had been arrested for a stabbing four years ago, when he was still a teenager, and later gave up drugs and alcohol, returning to religion, Aouissaoui was not on any list of suspects of jihadism. Neither in Tunisia nor in France – information confirmed by the police in both states.
In Thina, the poor suburb of the Tunisian city of Sfax where the attacker comes from, his family is shocked. They understood what happened for the first time on television, recognizing the scene of the attack in the young man’s video call. They had not seen him since September, when he boarded a small ship bound for Lampedusa, the gateway for most immigrants to Europe.
“I want to work like everyone else and get married, buy a house and a car like everyone else,” Yassin said his brother told him. A neighbor of the family spoke to Reuters, saying that the young man would have sold petrol on the black market to get the money needed to pay for his trip to Europe.
Aouissaoui arrived in Lampedusa on September 20th. On October 8, according to Italian authorities, he was transferred from the island to mainland Italy. According to the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Italian authorities had drawn up a deportation act, but the Tunisian was not detained and arrested, according to the Italian press. The possible cause was the lack of places in detention centers due to the pandemic. According to his family, he arrived in France on Wednesday, while Muslims from several countries were protesting against the reaction of the French government to the beheading near Paris. French authorities are still working to clarify the man’s clear path, with only a few landmarks being certain.
The trip from the Tunisian suburb to the three murders in the church in Nice ended when the police shot him, who is currently in critical condition. He also had a large knife on his head, used to kill the three people in the church. Two other knives were found next to his luggage.
The attacker’s life in Tunisia
Aouissaoui quickly dropped out of school in Tunisia, then worked as a mechanic in a garage. He could read and write in Arabic, but he had no understanding of the Latin alphabet he needed in Europe, according to his sister, Afef. Relatives and neighbors say they did not know he had extremist views or were part of jihadist groups. He would not even attend the local mosque regularly.
However, says his brother, he often began praying at home about two years ago after giving up drugs and alcohol. “She was never suspicious. I don’t know about his connections with extremist or terrorist groups “, said a neighbor.
His relatives are being investigated by Tunisian police. They are not fully convinced that the young man who left their womb more than a month ago is responsible for the heinous crimes on the other side of the Mediterranean. “Maybe the attack took place, and he heard something and ran to see what was happening, and the police shot him,” his brother speculated.
The attack in Nice comes two weeks after a French teacher was beheaded on a street in a Paris suburb. He showed his students several of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad made by the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo a few days earlier. The reaction of President Macron, who promised to defend France’s values at all costs and not ban cartoons, sparked a wave of protests in the Muslim world, where the graphic depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is strictly forbidden. The spearhead is Turkish President Recep Erdogan. He recommended a psychiatric consultation to Emmanuel Macron and urged Muslims to boycott French products.