The Tunisian suspect in the attack that left three people dead in the French southern city of Nice on Thursday was arrested for violence and using a knife back in 2016, a Tunisian judiciary official has said.

The Nice attack suspect, identified as a 21-year-old migrant from Tunisia who arrived in France a few weeks ago, was known to authorities in his home country. Back in 2016, he was arrested for knife violence, Mohsen Dali, a Tunisian judiciary official, said on Friday.

In the aftermath of the deadly attack, Tunisia launched its own investigation into the incident. Late on Thursday, officials said the suspect was not on its list of suspected militants at the time that he left the country in mid-September.

Tunisia promised to investigate the claims made by an entity called the Mahdi Organisation which it said on social media that it was responsible for the attack. Authorities have already launched a probe to determine whether the group exists and if what it says is true.

The deadly assault unfolded early on Thursday, when the suspect attacked people with a knife inside the largest Catholic church in the city. He managed to slit the throats of two people, who died at the scene, and to mortally wound a third, who managed to escape the church, but died at a restaurant nearby.

The attacker was shot and critically injured by the four police officers who responded to the incident, and currently remains in hospital in a serious condition.

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