Tu­nisian car­ry­ing Qu­ran fa­tally stabs three in French church

Miami Herald - - World | Deaths - BY LORI HINNANT AND DANIEL COLE

A young Tu­nisian man armed with a knife and car­ry­ing a copy of the Qu­ran at­tacked wor­ship­pers in a French church and killed three Thurs­day, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to raise its se­cu­rity alert to the max­i­mum level hours be­fore a na­tion­wide coro­n­avirus lock­down.

The at­tack in Mediter­ranean city of Nice was the third in less than two months that French au­thor­i­ties have at­trib­uted to Mus­lim ex­trem­ists, in­clud­ing the be­head­ing of a teacher who had shown car­i­ca­tures of the Prophet Muham­mad in class af­ter the im­ages were re-pub­lished by a satir­i­cal news­pa­per tar­geted in a 2015 at­tack.

Thurs­day’s at­tacker was se­ri­ously wounded by po­lice and hos­pi­tal­ized in lifethreat­en­ing con­di­tion af­ter the killings at the Notre Dame Basil­ica.

The im­pos­ing ed­i­fice is lo­cated half a mile from the site where an­other at­tacker plowed a truck into a crowd on France’s na­tional day in 2016, killing dozens.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said he would im­me­di­ately in­crease the num­ber of sol­diers de­ployed to pro­tect schools and re­li­gious sites from around 3,000 to 7,000.

France’s anti-ter­ror­ism prose­cu­tor said the sus­pect is a Tu­nisian born in 1999 who reached the Ital­ian is­land of Lampe­dusa, a key land­ing point for mi­grants

cross­ing in boats from

North Africa, on Sept. 20 and trav­eled to Bari, a port city in south­ern Italy, on Oct. 9. Prose­cu­tor JeanFran­cois Ri­card did not spec­ify when he ar­rived in Nice.

In Tu­nisia, the anti-ter­ror­ism prose­cu­tor’s of­fice said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing opened on the “sus­pected com­mis­sion of a ter­ror­ist crime by a Tu­nisian … out­side na­tional bor­ders,,” the of­fi­cial TAP news agency quoted the prose­cu­tor’s of­fice as say­ing.

The French prose­cu­tor said the at­tacker was not on the radar of in­tel­li­gence agen­cies as a po­ten­tial threat.

Video cam­eras recorded the man en­ter­ing the Nice train sta­tion at 6:47 a.m., where he changed his shoes and turned his coat in­side

out be­fore head­ing for the church, some 400 me­ters (yards) away, just be­fore 8:30 a.m.

Ri­card said the at­tacker was car­ry­ing a copy of Is­lam’s holy book and two tele­phones. A knife with a 17-cen­time­ter blade used in the at­tack was found near him along with a bag con­tain­ing an­other two knives that were not used in the at­tack.

He had spent some 30 min­utes in­side the church be­fore po­lice ar­rived via a side en­trance and “af­ter ad­vanc­ing down a cor­ri­dor they came face-to-face with (the at­tacker) whom they neu­tral­ized,” Ri­card said.

Wit­nesses heard the man cry­ing ”Al­lahu Ak­bar” as he ad­vanced on po­lice.

Po­lice ini­tially used an elec­tric gun then fired their ser­vice re­volvers. Ri­card

said 14 bul­let cas­ings were found on the ground.

Ri­card de­tailed a grue­some scene in­side the church where two of the vic­tims died. A 60-year-old woman suf­fered “a very deep throat slit­ting, like a de­cap­i­ta­tion,” he said, and a 55-year-old man also suf­fered deep, fa­tal throat cuts. The third vic­tim, a 44-yearold woman, man­aged to flee the church alive but died at a nearby restau­rant.

It was the third at­tack since Char­lie Hebdo re­pub­lished the car­i­ca­tures in Septem­ber as the trial opened for the 2015 at­tacks at the pa­per’s of­fices and a kosher su­per­mar­ket.

The gun­men in that at­tack claimed al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group and al-Qaida, which both re­cently called anew for strikes against France.

MARKUS SCHREIBER AP

Peo­ple mourn Thurs­day in front of the Bran­den­burg Gate near the French em­bassy in Berlin, at a com­mem­o­ra­tion for the vic­tims killed in a church at­tack in Nice, France.

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