The former wife of the terrorist who killed 84 people in Nice on Thursday night is in police custody, a Paris prosecutor said Friday, a day after her former spouse plowed a truck into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks on the seafront promenade in the French Riviera.
According to Israel’s Channel 2 television, the arrest of the unnamed woman came as part of efforts to determine the motive behind the attack, as well as assist in the hunt for possible accomplices.
The prosecutor also said that 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who was shot dead in the attack, was a Tunisian national and divorced with children, Reuters reported.
Bouhlel, whose identification papers were found in the truck used to carry out the attack, was not a French citizen, but had a French residency permit, Francois Molins, the Nice-based anti-terror prosecutor leading the investigation into the attack, said Friday.
The truck attack is exactly in line with jihadist calls to action, Molins said. He added that what had happened was “exactly in line with the constant calls to kill” which jihadist terror groups make in videos and elsewhere. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack so far, although many pro-Islamic State groups have praised the carnage.
According to Molins, Bouhlel was “totally unknown” to intelligence services, and was “never flagged for signs of radicalization.”
French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Friday that Bouhlel had a record of petty crime but nothing matching the seriousness of Thursday night’s rampage.
Urvoas told reporters in Paris that the attacker “was at the center of several procedures but was sentenced for only one incident” earlier this year.
He said Bouhlel was placed on probation after throwing a wooden pallet at another driver during a confrontation.
The minister said Bouhlel was handed a suspended sentence since he had never been convicted. He was under the obligation of presenting himself at a Nice police station once a week and posting bail. He respected these obligations rigorously, he said.
Bouhlel’s neighbors described him Friday as a loner with no visible religious affiliation. They portrayed him as a solitary figure who rarely spoke and did not even return greetings when their paths crossed in the four-storey block, located in a working-class neighborhood of Nice.
Sebastien, a neighbor who spoke on condition that his full name was not used, said Bouhlel did not seem overtly religious, often dressed in shorts and sometimes wore work boots.
He had a van parked nearby and owned a bike, which he brought up into his first-floor apartment.
Of those who were interviewed, only one, a neighbor on the ground floor, said she had had any concerns about him — he was “a good-looking man who kept giving my two daughters the eye.”