The gunman responsible for Nice attack and murdering up to 84 people by ramming into and shooting them at a Bastille Day celebration in France was identified in local Nice media as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a delivery driver and petty criminal whom the French interior minister said was“radicalized very rapidly.”
Bouhlel’s identification papers were found at the scene, French prosecutor Francois Molins said. Molins said the truck driver had a history of crime, but had never been the subject of a terror investigation.
“France has been struck on the day of her national holiday,” Bastille Day, a celebration of “liberty,” said French President Francois Hollande. “France as a whole is under the threat of Islamist terrorism, and so under these circumstances we have to demonstrate absolute vigilance and show determination that is unfailing.”
The terror attack resulted in killing at least 84 people and injuring 202 others. Four children remain in critical condition. One of whom is 10-years-old, but his identity remains unknown, since authorities are still trying to find family members.
The death toll is expected to rise. Of the 202 people who were injured, 80 of them were critical, and about 50 were children, many of them seriously wounded. No European attack in recent years has taken such a heavy toll on pre-teens.
Le Figaro said 16 bodies were still unidentified and five children still critical, three of them on life support, quoting a hospital spokeswoman for the Fondation Lenval, Nice Children’s hospital, which treated 30 children, the youngest aged six months.
The police are still investigating about Bouhlel and his bachground. Here is what they know.
1. Bouhlel Was a Delivery Driver, may have committed suicide
Bouhlel was a delivery driver and father who “might have hired the truck on Wednesday in a town near Nice…picking up the vehicle in the hills outside the city.” The news site said Bouhlel was “not suspected to have been radicalized and did not have a file with the anti-terrorism police.”
Bouhlel was “previously known to police for violence and theft.” However, French officials now say that Bouhlel might have been “radicalized,” however only “very rapidly,” CNN says.
The 25-ton box truck drove into the crowd at the Promenade des Anglais in the resort town of Nice, witnesses said.
Bouhlel drove “over a mile” through the crowd and accelerated as he did so, reported CNN. Sebastien Humbert, a police official, told ITV.com, “A truck rammed into the crowd over a long distance, which explains this extremely heavy toll.”
A police source as said Bouhlel could be “a suicide case who decided to make his suicide look like an Islamist attack. Investigators are being cautious about definitively ascribing a motive for the time being.”
French sources said the gunman “holed up in a nice restaurant downtown” and was then “neutralized” by police.
2. Bouhlel Was Not Known as a Religious Person, had criminal background
He had previous convictions for armed theft and domestic violence, but had no known ties to terrorism and was not under surveillance, the newspaper reports. A psychologist who saw Bouhlel at age 19 told UK Telegraph Bouhlel was already exhibiting the beginning signs of psychosis and his father worried he had stopped engaging in school and become violent.
Neighbors told The Telegraph that Bouhlel was “depressed and unstable, even aggressive,” because of his “marital and financial problems.” UK Telegraph says he was a divorced father of three who lived alone.
Bouhlel was not known to be a religious person, neighbors and family said.
His cousin told The Daily Mail that Bouhlel broke the rules of Islam.
The cousin said Bouhlel hit his wife, never prayed or attended a mosque. He also said Bouhlel drank alcohol, ate pork and did drugs.
Sébastien, a neighbor, told The Telegraph that Bouhlel, “didn’t have the appearance of a religious person and was often in shorts.”
Another neighbor said he was more into women than religion, saying he “didn’t pray” and liked “girls and Salsa” dancing.
Local media reports his ex-wife and other family members have been taken into custody for questioning. On July 16, authorities were questioning five people – his ex-wife and four other men, CNN said.
The Associated Press said Bouhlel was “aloof” and “menacing” to neighbors and his family members. Interviewed in Tunisia, his father said Bouhlel would have violent outbursts where “he broke everything he found around him,” The AP said. The father said Bouhlel was given medication and added that he didn’t pray, fast or go to mosque; a court-appointed lawyer who handled one of the Bouhlel’s petty cases in the past also said he saw no signs of radicalization.
3. Bouhlel used gun to kill more people
Witnesses said the death toll rose because the gunman then got out of the vehicle and started shooting at people. Some early reports indicated there could be two gunmen, but that evaporated as the chaos of the evening led to clearer information. Hollande said the truck’s driver, now identified as Bouhlel, was killed, but authorities are investigating whether he had accomplices.
AFP reported that the “driver of Nice truck fired pistol before being shot dead.” People took to social media desperately seeking information on loved ones. By some estimates, the truck was traveling at 20-25 mph.
The New York Times reported that the truck was “full of weapons and grenades,” quoting a French official. The Times said one of the first victims killed was a Muslim woman crushed by the truck. The full list of victims’ names has not yet been released.
Another eyewitness, Ryan Hubbs, told CNN that he saw people on the street who had “lost multiple family members. They weren’t sure what to do but waited for authorities, though that was very difficult for them.”
4. ISIS Supporters Applauded the Attack, ISIS connections
ISIS supporters online immediately applauded the attack and even created a congratulatory hashtag they urged people to use, and ISIS issued a statement saying a “soldier” of the Islamic State carried out the Nice attack, CNN said. The French foreign interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told CNN: “It seems that the attacker got radicalized very rapidly.”
French authorities found a phone number for Bouhlel in an investigation into an associate of Sengalese jihadi Omar Diaby (also known as Omar Omsen), “who lived in Nice before traveling to Syria.” Diaby recorded YouTube videos that motivated some jihadists, CNN said, and it was possible that Bouhlel was motivated by ISIS but not directly trained by the terrorist state.
Unconfirmed reports said ISIS supporters were “celebrating” the terrorist attack in Nice as “retaliation for the death of Abu Omar al-Shishani—the terror group’s so-called ‘minister of war.’” He was reportedly killed a few days before the Nice Attack in Iraq by Coalition forces.