Tunisia’s prime minister said his government has no evidence that the Tunisian who stabbed two women to death in Marseille had links to any extremist group.
Meeting with his French counterpart in Tunis, Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed condemned Sunday’s attack, saying “there is no justification for such barbaric acts.”
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the two countries agreed to work more closely together on security and responding to terror attacks and radicalization. Chahed said they would notably focus on “preventing the risks inherent in the return of terrorists from hot spots.”
French authorities have identified the Marseille attacker as Ahmed Hanachi, a 29-year-old Tunisian. He was killed by soldiers soon after the stabbings at Marseille’s Saint Charles station, which left two young cousins dead after a weekend birthday celebration.
The so-called Daesh group claimed responsibility, saying he responded to their calls to mete out vengeance for international military operations against the group in Syria and Iraq.
French authorities say Hanachi watched videos of chants on YouTube but they have not found firm links between Hanachi and Daesh or signs that he was radicalised. Five people suspected of helping Hanachi have been arrested. While French authorities describe Hanachi as a mysterious illegal migrant and Daesh calls him one of its “soldiers,” neighbors in the working class Tunisian neighborhood where Hanachi grew up paint a different picture.
They describe a fisherman with a history of drug problems, abandoned by his wife and with no outward signs of radicalisation. Emotions are raw and anger erupts quickly at Hanachi’s family home in Bizerte, about 60 kilometers north of Tunis. Hanachi’s older brother, Moez, insulted reporters seeking to talk to their parents or find out more about what motivated the attack. Hanachi’s uncle Mohamed started to open up, but then changed his mind.
One longtime friend, who agreed to be publicly identified only as Omar for fear for his security, said Hanachi shuttled regularly between Tunisia and Italy.
“He liked to drink and to take drugs, he didn’t pray,” Omar said. Omar said Hanachi split with his wife after she had an affair with one of Hanachi’s friends, and his brothers intervened to help him kick his drug habit. After that he resumed regular fishing work and was a “bon vivant” who frequented Bizerte cafés.