Wednesday 28 September 2016

Isil claims the Nice killer as one of its own

Attacker sent €100,000 to his family in Tunisia just days before killing spree

Camilla Turner and Niamh Horan

Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30

BRUTAL KILLER: Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel
BRUTAL KILLER: Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel

Isil has claimed responsibility for the truck attack that killed at least 84 people celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice on Thursday. Police yesterday arrested three more people there in connection with the seafront carnage carried out by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

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"The person who carried out the operation in Nice to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State," the Amaq news agency affiliated with the militant Islamist group said.

The name of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel is seen on the intercom of his apartment building in Nice, France. The French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day Celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
The name of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel is seen on the intercom of his apartment building in Nice, France. The French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day Celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

"He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State."

French authorities have yet to produce evidence of the 31-year-old Tunisian, shot dead by police in the attack, turning to radical Islam. Nevertheless, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after the claim that a transformation may have happened fast.

"It seems that he was radicalised very quickly - in any case these are the elements that have come up from the testimony of the people around him," Cazeneuve said.

Speaking from his home town in Tunisia, Bouhlel's sister said he had been having psychological problems when he left for France in 2005.

Other relatives and friends interviewed in Nice doubted he had Islamist leanings.

Read more: Islamic State claim responsibility for Nice truck attack as French police arrest five

In the days before the attack, it is said Bouhlel persuaded friends to send €100,000 in cash back to his family in their hometown of Msaken, 12 miles from Sousse, where a gunman massacred 38 holidaymakers in June last year.

"Mohamed sent the family 240,000 Tunisian Dinars (€100,000) in the last few days," the attacker's brother, told one reporter in Tunisia.

"He used to send us small sums of money regularly like most Tunisians working abroad. But then he sent us all that money, it was a fortune."

Bouhlel had been in France for 10 years and lived locally. He drove at the crowd in the Riviera city on Thursday night, zig-zagging along the seafront Promenade des Anglais for 1.8km until police eventually shot him dead.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Michael Smurfit, the honorary consul for Ireland to Monaco, said he felt an atmosphere of eeriness as people tried to come to terms with what had happened.

Speaking about the new wave of fear in the aftermath of several attacks on France, he said: "This latest horrific attack on the French people and the many other nationalities is sadly a pattern of a long series of such attacks.

"When someone is willing to die in order to inflict harm on others, it is quite impossible to stop, especially with a religious base. We will all have to learn to live with this fact, for sure this is just the beginning."

Sunday Independent

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