France’s chief anti-terrorist prosecutor has revealed gruesome details of the knife rampage inside a Catholic church in Nice, and identified the attacker as a 21yo migrant from Tunisia who arrived through Italy just weeks ago.

Early on Thursday morning, an assailant armed with a knife entered the Basilica of Notre-Dame – Nice’s main Catholic church – and began a stabbing spree that lasted nearly 30 minutes, according to France’s National Anti-Terror Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard.

The attack left three victims dead, including a 60-year-old woman found at the entrance of the church with a “very deep throat cut, like a decapitation,” as well as a 55-year-old man – the officiator of the worship service – who also died of a significant throat wound. A third female victim, 44, managed to escape the church after sustaining several stab wounds, but later succumbed to her injuries in a nearby restaurant.

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A team of four police officers engaged and “neutralized” the suspect as he advanced toward them in a “threatening manner.” The officers tried to subdue him with a stun gun and were forced to resort to their service weapons, with fourteen bullet casings found at the scene. The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital for treatment, where he is in serious condition.

‘Islamist terrorist’ identified as 21yo Tunisian migrant who just arrived through Italy

French authorities have identified the attacker as Brahim Aouissaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian national believed to have arrived in France from Italy on October 9.

In addition to the knife used in the assault, police recovered two other blades, a bag, two cell phones and a copy of the Koran from the crime scene. While the attacker’s motive was initially unclear, French officials, including Ricard and President Emmanuel Macron, have since linked the stabbing spree to “Islamist terrorism” – consistent with statements from witnesses who reported hearing the assailant cry “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is great!” in Arabic) during the rampage.

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“[The attack] painfully reminds us how much the deadly ideology of Islamist terrorism remains alive and well, as well as its will to attack our liberties, our most essential liberties, freedom of expression, freedom of teaching, freedom of worship,” Ricard said at a press conference.

Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, also told local media that the attack bore the same “modus operandi” as a grisly beheading of school teacher Samuel Paty earlier this month, who was apparently killed for sharing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed to students as part of a class discussion on freedom of expression.

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French authorities have placed the country on highest alert following the shocking incident, ramping up its terrorism warning system while deploying thousands of soldiers to stand guard at schools and houses of worship.