A 47-year-old man was arrested by security forces in France on the suspect of having contacted the alleged perpetrator of the bombing that left three dead in the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice a day before the terrorist attack, French television station BFMTV reported.
The man’s arrest was made this Friday morning, a police source consulted by the gala television network has confirmed. The Nice bombing took place around 9 a.m. on Thursday inside the Basilica of Notre Dame and resulted in the deaths of three people, according to the town’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, who confirmed that two of the victims lost their lives within the church.
The counter-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-Fran’ois Ricard, explained in the last hour of Thursday at a press conference that the fatalities are two women aged 44 and 60 and the sacristan of the church, a 55-year-old man, who along with the sexagenary would have been killed inside the basilica.
The alleged perpetrator of the attack was shot dead by security forces and evacuated to a hospital with serious prognosis following his arrest. The prosecutor explained that “the alleged perpetrator of the attack is not on fingerprint records and was not on the radar of the French Intelligence Services.”
Ricard noted that the alleged attacker is of Tunisian origin and is 21 years old and would have arrived in France after passing through the Italian island of Lampedusa at the end of September. He also indicated that the first investigations suggested that the individual arrived at about 7 a.m. at Nice Train Station, where he changed his clothes.
Once outside the station, he traveled about 400 metres to the basilica, where he would have entered at approximately 8.30am. There he would have stayed for just over half an hour, before perpetrating the crime and trying to flee from the left side.
“It is apparent from the testimonies that the man approached by walking menacingly and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is the greatest),” said Ricard, who detailed that the attack was carried out with a 30-centimeter-long knife with a 17-centimeter blade.
France has been criticized in recent days by the Muslim world in the wake of the French president’s crusade against “Islamic separatism.” International leaders such as Turkish representative Recep Tayyip Erdogan have accused Macron of xenophobia and being “hostile” to Islam.
The last terrorist attack in France occurred on 16 October, when Professor Samuel Paty was beheaded on the outskirts of Paris after showing Cartoons of Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression. In the wake of this attack, the authorities have tightened surveillance of Islamist organizations.
Nice was already the scene of an attack on 14 July 2016, when at the heart of the national holiday a terrorist rammed with his truck the hundreds of people who were crowded on the Paseo de los Ingleses. More than 80 people lost their lives in that attack, the second worst recorded in the country following the Paris attacks of 15 November 2015. Both were claimed by Islamic State.