Brahim al-Aouissaoui, the Nice attacker, remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Police overpowered a man in Paris on Friday when he threatened officers with two knives as France’s interior minister warned the country should brace for more attacks in the wake of Thursday’s Nice knife murders.
The latest arrest came after police were alerted that a man armed with a knife was knocking on his neighbour’s door in a southwestern district of the city.
The officers confronted the man in the courtyard of the building and used a Taser and rubber bullets to overpower him, the source said. No one else was hurt.
While the motives were unclear, it came as France is on tenterhooks on All Saints weekend in the wake of Thursday’s grisly attack on a church in Nice, in which three people, a man and two women, were stabbed to death – on partially beheaded.
A fresh photo has emerged of the suspected knife killer smiling after he arrived in Italy from Tunisia as France warned that it faced more “terrible attacks”.
Brahim al-Aouissaoui, 21, from Tunisia, beheaded one 60-year old woman at the Riviera town’s Notre-Dame Basilica on Thursday morning, slit the throat of sexton Vincent Loquès, 55, and stabbed to death 44-year-old mother-of-three- Simone Barreto Silva.
He was Tasered and then shot 14 times by police who arrived on the scene when the alarm was raised. He is being treated in hospital and is still in a critical condition.
The picture from the Red Cross shows Aouissaoui in Bari, a port city in Sicily, southern Italy, on October 9. France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said he had travelled there after reaching the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key landing point for migrants crossing in boats from North Africa, on September 20. After being quarantined, he was sent to the mainland and ordered to leave Italy.
The knifeman was not listed by Tunisian police as a suspected militant before he left the country, according to judicial officials in Tunis. Originally from the village of Sidi Omar Bouhajla near Kairouan, Aouissaoui had been living in Sfax and police were questioning his family there last night.
Sfax, a port about 130km (80 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, is a departure hub for Tunisians looking to make the crossing to Europe. A French police source said Aouissaoui was not known to French intelligence services either.
His brother told Al-Arabiya that he had informed the family he would sleep in front of the church, and sent them a photograph showing him at the cathedral where the attack took place. “He didn’t tell me anything,” he said.
He said he found it hard to believe he had done such a thing. “It’s not normal.”
However, the assailant’s mother said he had locked himself up for “two and a half years” in which time he did little but pray after dropping out of high school and working as a motorcycle mechanic.
But before that “he drank alcohol and used drugs. I used to tell him, ‘we are poor and you’re wasting money?’ He would reply if God wills it, he will guide me to the right path, it’s my business’,” she added.
The photo emerged as police detained and questioned a 47-year-old man believed to have been in contact with the assailant the night before the attack.
It came as Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, warned on Friday that more attacks on French soil were likely as the country was engaged in a “war against Islamist ideology”.
“We are in a war against an enemy that is both inside and outside,” he told RTL radio after a defence council meeting. “We need to understand that there have been and there will be other events such as these terrible attacks.”
This was the third in less than two months following the beheading of a teacher outside Paris who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class after the images were re-published by satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestinian territories on Friday after the killings, which prompted Mr Macron to vow to stand firm against attacks on Frenh values and freedom of belief.
France is to increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 to 7,000.
Some had already arrived in Nice, where the city was in shock. “Martyred Nice,” read the local newspaper, Nice Matin.
Some 120 police officers were also drafted into the city where locals on Friday braved a nationwide Covid lockdown that kicked in at midnight to pay their respects before the Basilica. Many sang the Marseillaise, France’s national anthem, before observing a minute’s silence.
“I’m here because I’m very angry about what’s happened. I am myself a Muslim and I don’t understand these people,” said Nadia, one well-wisher. “Where do these assailants come from? This attacker is just a sad case at the end of his life and thought he would do something. Is this a good act? This is not about religion, it’s nothing at all.”
“We are scared, we tremble, we feel bad, we’re not in a good way and we watch our backs,” said another, Sabine.
On Thursday night around 150 black-clad protesters from far-Right group Génération Identitaire marched in central Nice and laid flowers before the church before shouting: “This is our home” and “Islam out of France”.
“We must not above all mix up Islamism and Islam,” said another well-wisher.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned after the meeting that nationals faced a security risk “wherever they are” in the wake of the attack, saying alerts had been sent to all French citizens abroad.
His comments came as tens of thousands of Muslims protested in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestinian territories on Friday against Mr Macron’s perceived “Islamophobia”.
But Mr Le Drian insisted that France had only “a message of peace for the Muslim world,” and several French imams have also appealed for calm.
“Today I feel like a Christian, because this touches the very heart of a man or woman,” Otmane Aissaoui, imam at the ar-Rahma mosque in Nice, told AFP.
“Islam, like Christianity or Judaism, is light-years away from an act like this,” he said.
Despite French government calls for unity, the Right-wing opposition called for a clampdown on illegal immigration with Christian Jacob, head of the conservative Republicans Party, saying: “In three weeks, we’ve had three terror attacks, one stopped just in time yesterday in Lyon, and all four times they were foreigners.”
“The problem of immigration and its control must be posed.”
Eric Ciotti, a Right-wing MP, even called for a “French Guantanamo” to house the 4,000-odd foreigners on French soil on a security watchlist.
Brazil meanwhile on Friday confirmed that one of its nationals had died in the Nice attack.
Simone Barreto Silva, who moved to France from Brazil as a teenager, loved dancing samba, and displayed a devotion to Jesus Christ.
“She crossed the road, covered in blood,” said Brahim Jelloule, manager of the Unik cafe which is across the road from the church’s side entrance in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Mr 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),” Mr Jelloule said in an interview with the France Television broadcaster.
Silva was originally from Bahia, in northeast Brazil, but as a young woman moved to France and studied at Nice Sophia Antipolis University, according to her Facebook profile. She trained as a chef but had lately been working as a care assistant for the elderly, according ton French reports.
The picture on her Facebook profile had an image of Jesus Christ and the words, in French: “I am the one who loves you.”