The family of the Tunisian perpetrator of the Nice church attack stressed on Friday that he had never showed signs of extremism.
They told Asharq Al-Awsat that they were in shock over the news that their son, Brahim al-Aouissaoui, was involved in the killing of three people at Notre Dame Basilica in Nice on Thursday.
Aouissaoui, 21, hails from the impoverished city of Kairouan. His family moved to Thina, a dowdy suburb of Sfax, where Aouissaoui was the main breadwinner as both of his parents are unemployed.
His parents and nine siblings had not seen him since September when he boarded a small boat for Lampedusa, the Italian island that is a main arrival point for immigrants to Europe.
In a telephone call to Asharq Al-Awsat, his brother Yassin said Brahim had lived a normal life and never showed any signs of extremism and had never criticized his social status despite the difficulties he was enduring.
The family is still in shock and has yet to fathom that Brahim had committed the Nice terrorist attack, he added.
The family had not even known that he had traveled secretly to Italy and had never even imagined his intentions, he continued.
Brahim, he stated, worked various jobs, including motorcycles mechanic and at an olive press, before departing onboard an illegal journey to Italy about a month ago. He had saved some 1,200 Tunisian dinars (around 435 dollars) to pay for the trip.
He then made his way to France and contacted his family, informing them that he was searching for a place to stay. He said he may stay near the church and those where the last words they head from him before receiving news of the attack. He has since been detained by the authorities.
Tunisia has for years battled an extremist security threat, though police have grown more effective. Terror attacks in Tunisia in recent years have mainly been carried out by people radicalized online rather than in mosques, diplomats say according to Reuters.
On Friday, the state news agency reported that authorities had approved an investigation into social media claims attributing the Nice attack to a previously unknown group called “The Mahdi Organization in Southern Tunisia”.