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Nice church attacker identified as 21-year-old Tunisian man

Lorenzo Tondo and Jason Burke
·2-min read

The man who killed three people in a knife attack in a church in Nice on France’s Côte D’Azur on Thursday has been named as Brahim Aouissaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant.

Aouissaoui arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in late September, when authorities placed him in coronavirus quarantine before releasing him with an order to leave Italian territory. He arrived in France in early October, sources close to the investigation told the AFP news agency.

Related: France will not give in to terror after Nice attack, Macron says

French authorities say Aouissaoui had no identity papers on him when police shot and wounded him after the attack, but was carrying a document giving his name from the Italian Red Cross. He had not made any demand for political asylum in France.

Prosecutors in Sicily have confirmed to the Guardian that Aouissaoui arrived in Lampedusa on 20 September, then spent 14 days on a quarantine boat before being transferred to Bari on the mainland on 9 October.

The high number of arrivals from Tunisia means repatriation procedures from Italy are often delayed. Instead, Tunisians are frequently given an “exit slip”, requiring them to leave Italy within seven days. Aouissaoui had received such an order but, like many, travelled illegally to France.

Sicilian prosecutors also confirmed that Aouissaoui had no papers with him and said that a picture of him released by the French police matched the one in their possession.

According to magistrates, the “current and most probable hypothesis” is that he travelled to Lampedusa onboard a small vessel.

Related: Attacks in France put Islamist extremism back in spotlight

Europol said in a report earlier this year that there were no signs of systematic use of “irregular migration” by terrorist organisations.

A UN committee of experts, however, said the arrest of nine Syrians, an Egyptian and a Turkmen in Cyprus in May 2020, all linked to either Isis or Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, showed that potential terrorists could use illegal migration routes to reach Europe.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right former interior minister, said that if reports Aouissaoui had landed in Lampedusa were confirmed, the current interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, should resign or be sacked.