Saturday 3 December 2016

Nice killer 'plotted atrocity for months with accomplices'

Henry Samuel

Published 22/07/2016 | 02:30

The disclosures came as the row deepened over alleged security failings in Nice ahead of last week’s attack in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck through barriers and into crowds on the promenade, Photo: Kapitalis via AP
The disclosures came as the row deepened over alleged security failings in Nice ahead of last week’s attack in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck through barriers and into crowds on the promenade, Photo: Kapitalis via AP

The Nice Bastille Day killer had probably been preparing for his crime for up to a year with the help of several accomplices, the Paris prosecutor said yesterday.

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Francois Molins also said one of five suspects - four men and a woman - facing charges for complicity returned to the scene minutes after the attack to video emergency services tending victims and filmed himself doing so.

The disclosures came as the row deepened over alleged security failings in Nice ahead of last week's attack in which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, pictured inset, drove a truck through barriers and into crowds on the promenade, killing 84 and injuring more than 300. Some 15 people are still in a critical condition.

Officials had previously suggested that Bouhlel, who until recently drank alcohol, ate pork, danced salsa and had an "unbridled sex life" with men and women, had been radicalised in a matter of days or weeks.

But Mr Molins said evidence from the killer's phone and computer suggested he had probably planned the attack "several months in advance".

It included a photograph on his phone dated May 25, 2015, of an article on a drug known to be taken by Isil combatants to reduce fear and fatigue. Bouhlel's phone also contained a photograph of Bastille Day fireworks from last year and another zooming in on crowds at a concert three days later.

One of the five suspected accomplices, Choukri C, sent Bouhlel a text message on April 4 this year, saying: "Fill up the truck with 2,000 tons of iron and screw [them], cut the brakes and my friend I'll watch."

Mr Molins said that the inquiry had "progressed and not only confirmed the murderous premeditated nature of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel's act but also established that he benefited from support and complicity".

Bouhlel had photographed two of the suspects, Mohamed Walid G and Choukri C, in the cabin of the truck used for the attack. In Nice, investigators found a Kalashnikov rifle and a bag of ammunition in the basement of 22-year-old suspect Ramzi A, who is among the five being held.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve yesterday faced calls from the right-wing opposition to resign after a report in 'Liberation' newspaper claimed that only one municipal police car was guarding the spot where Bouhlel began his run into the crowd.

'Liberation' said Mr Cazeneuve lied about the whereabouts of the national police officers and cars in Nice that day and accused authorities of lacking transparency. Using witness statements and photos, 'Liberation' showed that only one local police car was stationed at the entrance to the Nice boulevard on July 14.

The paper quoted Nice police officer Yves Bergerat, who said local police forces' guns and bullets aren't even equipped "to puncture the tires", let alone shatter the windshield of a truck that size.

Cazeneuve accused the paper of conspiracy theories and said several "heroic" national police officers - who killed the attacker after an exchange of fire - were stationed further down the promenade.

French president Francois Hollande promised "truth and transparency" from an inquiry by a police watchdog into allegations of poor security.

Intelligence agents and armed police acting on a tip-off yesterday arrested 20 suspects in two raids on homes in Argenteuil, north-west of Paris.

Isil has claimed responsibility for the attack, though authorities have said they had not found signs that the extremist group directed it.

The criticism comes as the National Assembly extended France's state of emergency for six months. The security measure had been in place since the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 victims and were claimed by Isil. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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