Oct. 30 (UPI) — Authorities in France identified the man they said killed three people in a knife attack at a Catholic basilica in the southern French city of Nice on Thursday.
Police described the incident as a terrorist attack by an assailant with a knife that killed a man and woman inside the Notre Dame Basilica and another woman was killed while fleeing the church to seek refuge at a nearby cafe. Several others were injured in the attack, they said.
The suspect was identified as Brahim Aouissaui, a 21-year-old immigrant from Tunisia. He was shot and wounded by police, authorities said.
Italian authorities said Aouissaui arrived on the island of Lampedusa on Sept. 20 and then spent 14 days on a quarantined boat before being transferred to the mainland. He arrived in France in early October.
He had no identity papers in his possession after being shot by police but was carrying a document from the Italian Red Cross that featured his name.
The National Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office announced it is investigating the attack and called it an “assassination and attempted assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise.” They also labeled it a “criminal terrorist” act.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted that the government would stage a “crisis meeting” and Prime Minister Jean Castex cut short a debate in Parliament on COVID-19 measures to attend.
Members of Parliament observed a moment of silence to honor victims of the attack, which was to be followed by a more formal remembrance later Thursday.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said French President Emmanuel Macron had phoned him in a show of support and was on his way to Nice.
Estrosi called the attack an act of “Islamo-fascism.”
“My first words are words of compassion toward the relatives and families of the victims, as well as for all those of the parish community of the Notre Dame basilica of Nice,” he said, praising police for their quick response.
The attack came almost two weeks after a French school teacher was decapitated after showing students controversial caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad during a civics class debate on freedom of expression.
French authorities say the suspect in that killing is an 18-year-old Russian-born refugee of Chechen origin.