A 21-year-old man suspected of carrying out a brutal stabbing attack in the French city of Nice has been charged with murder. Prosecutors say that Brahim Aouissaoui, a Tunisian national, entered the Basilica of Notre-Dame on October 29 carrying three knives, two mobile phones and a Koran, before slashing the throats of three people.
The attacker, who was seriously injured after being shot by responding police officers, continued to scream "Allahu Akhbar" even as police detained him and rushed him to a nearby hospital. The attack came just two weeks after a French history teacher was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee after he showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on freedom of speech.
According to investigators, Aouissaoui had arrived in Europe from Tunisia in September, crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, then crossing the border into France. French intelligence said they had nothing on file relating to Mr Aouissaou prior to the attack.
Aouissaoui's mother said her son had come to the attention of local police after getting involved in drugs and exhibiting violent behaviour on occasion.
"He drank alcohol and used drugs. I told him: ‘We don’t have enough and you, you waste money?’” she said.
Following the attack, the mother described her son as becoming increasingly reclusive, and spending hours in prayer.
"He didn't go out and didn't communicate with others," she added to AFP.
Aouissaoui did not tell his family that he'd travelled to Europe. Prior to the attack, he contacted family to say he was in France. “He said he had decided to go to France because there were better work prospects and there were too many people [seeking employment] in Italy,” his brother recalled. Aouissaoui’s sister, Afef, said her brother had discovered the church when looking for a place to sleep, and told her he would rest in a building opposite the church.
Afef said that her brother showed no intention of carrying out an attack. Twelve hours later, Aouissaoui slashed three people to death in a 30-minute stabbing frenzy.