A TUNISIAN terrorist sent his family a selfie outside the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice and sat alongside worshippers for 30 minutes before launching Thursday’s bloody attack.
Brahim Aoussaoui, 21, arrived in Europe just weeks before launching Thursday’s rampage, using a foot-long knife to butcher three people inside the church.
His relatives, speaking at their home in the Tunisian town of Bouhajla where he previously lived, said the 21-year-old had been in contact with them since he arrived in France.
According to his family, the attacker even sent them a photo of the Notre Dame cathedral before murdering the three victims.
Aoussaoui’s brother Yacine told Al Arabiya, an Arab media outlet, his brother wanted to spend the night in front of the cathedral.
“He sent me a picture in front of it,” he said.
His family said: “What we saw in the images is him, our son.”
“What we saw in the images is him, our son,” the family said.
Three worshippers were killed in the rampage as Aoussaoui stormed the church in Nice, later being neutralised by cops who shot him.
He survived, despite being shot 14 times by police, and is under armed guard in a secure hospital wing.
On the day of the attack, CCTV then showed him arriving in the church at 8.30am and sitting inside for nearly half an hour.
The attacker was also pictured grinning after arriving in Italy before he was “freed from detention to slaughter three in Nice”.
A security source told Le Parisien newspaper that Aoussaoui had followed the “classic migratory route” to Europe from North Africa, and arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa on a small boat on September 20.
“The young man was then suspected of having contracted Covid-19 and was placed in solitary confinement on a ship,” the source said.
According to the source, Aoussaoui should have been jailed before deportation after disembarking on October 9 in the port of Bari with no papers and suffering health problems.
But authorities failed to confirm the killer’s identity and he was let free.
He made his way to Nice, travelling by train in a manner which did not alert officials.
People on board the ship to Italy later said Aoussaoui spent most of his time on his phone, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.
The Italian interior minister said on Friday the Italian government was in no way to blame for allowing Aoussaoui to enter Europe.
Luciana Lamorgese confirmed that neither the Tunisian authorities nor the Italian intelligence service had flagged Aouissaoui as a potential threat.
“We have no responsibility in this,” she told reporters.
Meanwhile, Tunisian authorities have launched an investigation into whether a group called the Mahdi Organisation exists and carried out the attack in Nice following social media claims of responsibility, state news agency TAP reported on Friday.
It also emerged on Friday that Aoussaoui was arrested for violence and using a knife in 2016, according to an official in the Tunisian judiciary.
Launching the bloody attack in Nice on Thursday morning, Sacristan Vincent Loquès, 54, had his throat slit as he prepared for the first Mass of the day, while one woman was found partially beheaded near the holy water font.
Loquès, a dad-of-two, was the building’s sacristan, an officer charged with taking care of the church.
Parishioners paid tribute to him as a man who loved his church, saying “he helped, he served, he gave”, reports Nice-Matin.
He was said to be preparing the church for Sunday’s upcoming All Saint’s Day when he was attacked by the knifeman.
Brazilian-born Simone Barreto Silva, 44, fled the carnage inside the church and ran into a nearby cafe, where she died of her injuries after telling paramedics: “Tell my children that I love them.”
“She crossed the road, covered in blood,” Brahim Jelloule, manager of the Unik cafe, said.
Jelloule said his brother, who was working in the cafe at the time, and an employee, saw Silva and brought her inside.
“To begin with, they couldn’t understand anything. She was still talking, she was saying that there was someone inside (the church),” Jelloule said in an interview with the France Television broadcaster.
Silva moved to France as a young woman and studied at Nice Sophia Antipolis University, according to her Facebook profile.
She trained as a chef but had recently been working as a care assistant, French media reported.
Elsewhere, there have been at least three other incidents as French president Emmanuel Macron described his country as “under attack”.
In Avignon, a far-right knifeman was also shot dead by cops and a security guard was stabbed at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as France was rocked by a day of violence.
It was reported a knifeman was caught near a church in Paris after telling his family he wanted to copy the attack in Nice, while another man was arrested while he was about to board a tram armed with a 12-inch knife.
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In Nice, residents mourned the victims of what was the second attack in the Mediterranean city in recent years.
In July 2016, a militant drove a truck through a seafront crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.
People gathered in front of the Notre Dame church to lay flowers and light candles on Friday.