An Islamic terrorist who killed three people in the French city of Nice on Thursday was pictured grinning after arriving in Europe just weeks before the deadly attacks.
Brahim Aoussaoui, a migrant from Tunisia, was photographed smiling following his arrival in Italy last month, before he was allegedly freed from detention, going on to slaughter his victims in a church.
Vincent, 54, the churchwarden at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice had his throat slit as he prepared for morning mass.
Brazilian-born mum Simone, 44, fled the carnage inside the church and ran into a nearby cafe where she died after telling paramedics: “Tell my children that I love them.”
A security source has told the Parisien newspaper that Aoussaoui, who is currently under protective custody in hospital, had followed the “classic migratory route” to Europe from North Africa, arriving 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,” said the source.
Aoussaoui then disembarked on October 9 in the Italian port of Bari, but having no papers and clearly suffering from health problems, he should have been jailed before deportation.
Instead, Tunisian authorities failed to confirm Aoussaoui’s identity and he was let free.
He then made his way to Paris and on to Nice, where he carried out his attacks after phoning his brother in Tunisia to say he was sleeping outside of the cathedral.
An unidentified 47-year-old man is also in custody following meetings he had with the infected killer a day before Thursday’s bloodbath.
Aoussaoui’s family are being quizzed about his links to a jihadi organisation.
According to his family, the killer sent them a photo of the Notre Dame cathedral the night before he murdered his three victims.
His brother Yacine told Arab media outlet Al Arabiya: “What we saw in the images is him.”
Tunisia on Thursday announced it had opened an investigation into the alleged attacker.
France has seen a wave of attacks in recent weeks following the double stabbing in Paris near the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in September.
This was followed by the beheading of teacher Charles Paty in the Parisian suburb of Conflans-Saint-Honorine.
His killer, a Chechen-born Islamist, was allegedly enraged after the teacher showed cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in class during a debate on free speech.
In the wake of the murder, Charlie Hebdo controversially published further cartoons, which triggered fury among extremists in some Islamic countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron has denounced the Nice killings as an “Islamic terror attack” and deployed 7,000 troops onto the streets of France.
Meanwhile, a feared “copycat attack” was foiled in Paris after a man with a knife was stopped near a church.
The man told his family he wanted to copy the attack in Nice, while in another incident a man was arrested in Lyon while trying to board a tram armed with a 12-inch knife.
A security guard was also stabbed at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Macron’s government has moved the terror alert level to the highest “emergency” level as he warned the country was “under attack”.