Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nice killer's lover questioned as France mourns

French public prosecutor of Paris Francois Molins addresses a press conference about the truck attack that killed 84 in the city of Nice. AFP/Getty Images
French public prosecutor of Paris Francois Molins addresses a press conference about the truck attack that killed 84 in the city of Nice. AFP/Getty Images

Henry Samuel

Police in Nice have questioned a 73-year-old man described as the Bastille Day killer's "main lover" - as investigators described Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel as a "sex maniac" and "ultra-violent sadist", according to French reports.

The news came amid revelations that Bouhlel had displayed a "clear, recent interest in the radical jihadist movement", growing a beard only in the last eight days - after a previous life in which he drank alcohol and ate pork.

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. (Kapitalis via AP)
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. (Kapitalis via AP)

François Molins, the French prosecutor, said the Tunisian, who killed 84 people when he ploughed into crowds on Nice's Promenade des Anglais after a late-night fireworks display last Thursday, had searched on the internet for information on terror attacks in Orlando and the Paris suburb of Magnanville, where two police officers were murdered last month.

Recent mobile and computer searches included images "linked to radical Islam" - from decapitations to chants.

He had also conducted numerous searches on road deaths with the proviso "sensitive viewers abstain" and one on a recent article in the 'Nice-Matin' newspaper about a motorist who "deliberately mowed into a restaurant terrace".

Mr Molins confirmed that the murderous act was clearly premeditated as Bouhlel, pictured inset, had visited the Promenade des Anglais in his truck in the two days leading up to the attack, taking photos.

There were unconfirmed claims by his uncle that he had been indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of Isil in Nice, who found him an "easy prey".

Dubbed a "soldier of Islam" by Isil, Bouhlel's mobile phone suggests he often used dating sites to pick up male and female lovers.

Police have already questioned several of these since the deadly attack, in particular, according to 'Le Parisien', a 73-year old man, which a source close to the investigation described as "his main lover".

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

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel's uncle, Sadok Bouhlel, said his nephew's family problems - he was estranged from his wife and three children - meant the Algerian extremist "found in Mohamed an easy prey for recruitment".

Meanwhile, France held a country-wide moment of silence yesterday to remember the victims, but mourning was punctured by anger and political division.

Crowds massed on the Riviera seafront in Nice booed the visiting Prime Minister Manuel Valls, whose Socialist government is coming under increasing criticism from the public and the conservative opposition for failing to prevent the Bastille Day carnage.

A total of 59 people remain in hospital after Thursday's attack, 29 of them in intensive care, out of 308 people injured overall.

A sign posted around town demonstrates a strong feeling of solidarity, calling for blood donations, stuffed animals for injured children and a plea to "unite against the crazy ones".

But bitterness is also close to the surface. President François Hollande's Socialist administration has come under blistering criticism from opposition conservatives after the attack.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy accused the government of bad policies that he says failed to prevent three major attacks in the past 18 months.

"Everything that should have been done over the past 18 months was not done," Mr Sarkozy said on Sunday night. "We are in war, a total war. Our enemies have no taboos, no borders, no principles. So I will use strong words: It will be us or them."

He called for electronic bracelets for anyone suspected of potential radicalisation.

Seven people are in custody in the probe into the Nice attack. Three of the suspects were brought to French intelligence headquarters in Paris yesterday to face eventual terrorism charges, according to a security official.

At the home of one of the suspects, investigators found 11 telephones, cocaine and €2,600 in cash, according to a security official and the Paris prosecutor's office.

Irish Independent

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