Italy's right-wing politicians seize upon Italian link in France terror attack.
The Tunisian man accused of killing a man and two women at a church in Nice on 29 October, beheading two of his victims, arrived in Italy in September before making his way to France earlier this month, Italian security sources have confirmed.
Reports that the attacker, 21-year-old Brahim Aoussaoui, landed at the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa were first raised by Nice deputy Eric Ciotti who called on French president Emmanuele Macron to "suspend any migratory flow and any asylum procedure, particularly at the Italian border," according to Italy's state broadcaster RAI.
Aoussaoui is believed to have landed at Lampedusa on board a small boat on 20 September, before being transferred to the Rhapsody quarantine ship, as required under the covid-19 protocols. The boat sailed to Bari and, after a 14-day period of quarantine, Aoussaoui subsequently tested negative for the virus.
On 9 October he was transferred to a migrant centre where he received an order to leave Italy within seven days. Over the following weeks there is no trace of Aoussaoui, until the terror attack at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Nice, just before Mass at o9.00 yesterday morning.
Aouissaoui was shot and seriously wounded by police after the attack, during which he shouted "Allahu Akbar," and was found to be carrying a copy of the Quran and document with his name from the Italian Red Cross, according to French authorities.
National security alert
Terming it an "Islamist terrorist attack," Macron has ordered an increase in soldiers protecting places of worship and schools as France raises its national security alert to its highest level.
The basilica is less than a kilometre from the site where another attacker ploughed a truck into a crowd on France’s national day in 2016, resulting in the deaths of 86 people in the Mediterranean city.
In recent weeks France has been roiled by Islamist threats and attacks since a schoolteacher was beheaded on 16 October after showing students controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, published in satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as part of a lesson about free speech.
"If we are attacked once again it is for the values which are ours: freedom, for the possibility on our soil to believe freely and not to give in to any spirit of terror" - Macron said after visiting Nice - "I say it with great clarity once again today: we won't surrender anything."
Citing free speech, Macron has vigorously defended the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, deemed blasphemous and gravely offensive by Muslims. This has sparked angry protests across swathes of the Muslim world and triggered campaigns to boycott French products.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith tweeted that it “forcefully condemns the terrorist attack” in Nice and called on Muslims to annul their celebrations as part of the festival of Mawlid, to mark the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, as a sign of mourning for the victims.
Italy reacts to Nice terror attack
Expressing Italy's solidarity with France, premier Giuseppe Conte said the "cowardly" attack "does not affect the common front in defence of the values of freedom and peace.”
Pope Francis said he was praying "for the victims, for their families and for the beloved French people, that they may respond to evil with good."
News of the Italian link to the attack was seized upon by Italy's right-wing politicians, chiefly Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant Lega party and former interior minister, who said that if the reports were true the current interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, should resign or be sacked.
Following the confirmation of the reports by the interior ministry, Salvini raised the tone further last night by saying during a live social media post that "The Italian premier and the minister of the interior have the moral responsibility for what happened in France."
In 2011 - under former premier Silvio Berlusconi with the Lega's Roberto Maroni as interior minister - another Tunisian, Anis Amri, arrived at Lampedusa as a minor and went on to kill 12 people in a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market on 20 December 2016.
Three days later Amri was shot dead in a gunfight with Italian police in the Milan area.
Photo Wall Street Journal
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Reports that Nice attacker landed in Lampedusa spark debate in Italy