French police make more arrests, interrogate 6 people over Nice church attack

notre dame
People lights candle outside the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Basilica in Nice on October 29, 2020, in tribute to the three victims of a knife attacker inside the church of the French Riviera city. |

Church services were held under heavy security in the southern city of Nice on Sunday as police arrested three more people who are allegedly the last known contacts of the suspected assailant from Thursday's attack.

A 29-year-old Tunisian man was arrested from the town of Grasse near the southern French coast close to Nice, and two other men — aged 63 and 25 — were later taken in for questioning from the same address, The Guardian reported.

Police had earlier arrested three men, aged 33, 35 and 47. Some reports said police released three men on Sunday after they found the three may not be linked to the suspected attacker.

The alleged attacker, identified as 21-year-old Brahim Aouissaoui from Tunisia, took a train from Rome and arrived in Nice late on Oct. 27, between 24 and 48 hours before the attack on Thursday morning, the newspaper said, quoting police sources.

Aouissaoui visited the Notre Dame de l’Assomption basilica the day before the attack and spoke to his family on the phone in the evening. He told his family that he would be sleeping rough.

On Thursday morning, he entered the basilica and allegedly carried out an attack, in which a 60-year-old worshiper, identified as Nadine Devillers, the church sexton, Vincent Loquès, 55, and Simone Barreto Silva, 44, died.

Aouissaoui was carrying three knives, including the large knife he allegedly used to kill the three, and a Quran in a backpack.

Police shot him several times after the attack and he is said to be recovering from serious injuries.

According to the chief anti-terrorism prosecutor, Aouissaoui had arrived in Europe on Sept. 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia, according to France 24.

“It is still too early to say if there were others complicit, what his motivations were in coming to France and when this idea took root in him,” a source close to the inquiry told Al Jazeera.

On Sunday, the Notre-Dame basilica held its first mass since the attack which was attended by hundreds of people amid tight security, according to DW.

Many Muslims also attended mass in several cities, including Blois and Toulouse, as a show of respect for the victims, The Guardian reported.

Lahouary Siali, an imam in Toulouse, was quoted as saying by AFP: “These people have no spirit or reason and want to make another interpretation (of the Quran) that we firmly reject. We have not mandated anyone, and given no power of attorney to anyone to speak on our behalf. In the name of what philosophy, what spirituality have you come to take the lives of innocent people?”

On Saturday, a Greek Orthodox priest was attacked with a sawn-off shotgun in the city of Lyon.

Nikolas Kakavelakis, a 45-year-old priest and father of two, was wounded in the attack, according to Antoine Callot, the pastor at another Greek Orthodox church in Lyon, The Epoch Times reported.

Kakavelakis, a Greek citizen, was shot in the abdomen at point-blank range while he was closing his church at 4 p.m. local time, and he is now in a serious condition in the hospital.

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