Friday 24 March 2017

The attacker: Loner who killed dozens was a native of Tunisia

A reproduction of the residence permit of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the man who rammed his truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A reproduction of the residence permit of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the man who rammed his truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a 31-year-old French-Tunisian delivery driver, known to police, who is reported to have driven the 19-tonne white Renault lorry into the crowds gathered for Bastille Day celebrations. His identity as the driver had not been formally confirmed by the French police last night.

According to several French reports, Bouhel was born in Tunisia in 1985 and had a French residency permit.

He hailed from the Tunisian town of Msaken, which is close to the seaside city of Sousse, where 38 people, including three Irish and 30 British victims, were gunned down by terrorists in June 2015.

A French television station, BFM TV, reported that he was a divorced father of three who had become depressed following the breakdown of his marriage. One neighbour told BFM TV that he was "more into women than religion".

Police raided his flat, where he reportedly lived alone, in the Abattoirs area of Nice yesterday morning. His wife was reportedly taken into protective custody and questioned by police.

One 40-year-old neighbour, who would only give her first name as Jasmine, said: "He was rude and a bit weird. We would hold the door open for him and he'd just blank (us). He kept himself to himself but would always rant about his wife.

"He had marital problems and would tell people in the local cafe. He scared my children, though."

However, she added: "He was very smart, with the same haircut as George Clooney."

Read more: 'Handsome but frightening', Nice Bastille Day truck driver 'was married with three children'

Another woman said that she found him "shifty" but described him as "a good-looking man who eyed up my two girls too much".

Bouhel was known to the police for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats and robbery but had no previous convictions for terrorism and was not under surveillance.

Investigating sources said his last appearance in a criminal court was as recent as March and that he had convictions for armed theft, conjugal violence and threatening behaviour.

According to BFMTV, he recently caused an accident after falling asleep at the wheel while working as a delivery driver.

Police are searching for any accomplices to the attack, which appears to have been premeditated. They found a pistol, a larger gun and a number of fake weapons and grenades in the truck.

It is believed that he may have hired the lorry and boarded it "in the hills of Nice" before driving down to the promenade, according to CCTV footage.

Irish Independent

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