Nice investigator: Attack ‘in line with calls to kill’ by jihadist groups
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Nice investigator: Attack ‘in line with calls to kill’ by jihadist groups

Officials confirm ex-wife of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel in custody, name attacker as Tunisian who had French residency

People lay flowers in the street of Nice to pay tribute to the victims the day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people, on July 15, 2016. (AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)
People lay flowers in the street of Nice to pay tribute to the victims the day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people, on July 15, 2016. (AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

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.

French anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins delivers a press conference at the courthouse of Nice on July 15, 2016, a day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people. (AFP PHOTO/GIUSEPPE CACACE)
French anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins delivers a press conference at the courthouse of Nice on July 15, 2016, a day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people. (AFP Photo/Giuseppe Cacace)

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.”

An ID card in the name of terror suspect Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, alleged to have killed more than 80 people in Nice on July 14, 2016 (Courtesy)
An ID card in the name of terror suspect Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, alleged to have killed more than 80 people in Nice on July 14, 2016 (Courtesy)

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.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, center, lay flowers at the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia on July 15, 2016, to pay condolences to victims of Thursday's terrorist attack in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, center, lay flowers at the French Embassy in Moscow, Russia on July 15, 2016, to pay condolences to victims of Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

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.”

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