French authorities have detained two more people for questioning in connection with the truck attack in Nice that killed at least 84 people, when 31-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove his truck through the crowds at a Bastille Day celebration, according to The Guardian. He managed to penetrate more than a mile into the masses before being shot dead by police. Eighty-one people are still in the hospital, with 15 being in critical condition.
An unidentified man and a woman were detained Sunday morning in Nice, which brings the number of people in custody since the deadly attack to six, after the release of his ex-wife earlier today. Authorities are unsure whether Bouhlel acted alone, as ISIS has claimed responsibility, describing him as “a soldier of the Islamic State,” although people who knew the attacker say he showed no indications of radicalism. He dressed in a western style, frequented bars, and voiced no deep religious dogmas, neither praying nor fasting during Ramadan.
“He was mad. He drank, ate pork and didn’t pray,” said a family friend.
He had been living in Nice for eight years, having separated from his wife two years ago after numerous incidents of domestic violence that became so serious that his wife reported him to the police. He lived alone in a studio apartment in eastern Nice, keeping to himself and not mingling with neighbors, who said he was a heavy drinker and looked “lost” and unstable.
“He smelled of alcohol in the middle of Ramadan. He didn’t look religious either, he didn’t have a beard,” said Jasmine Ghouma, who lived on the ground floor, “Whenever we said good morning, he never replied, he just stared. He never spoke to anyone.”
Bouhlel’s brother told a Tunisian radio station that he had spoken to Bouhlel on Thursday, who said he was making plans to return to Tunisia for a relative’s wedding, despite his marital issues. His father told a French Radio station that he (Bouhlel) needed psychiatric treatment in 2004 as a result of turmoil in his life.
Police searching his apartment for evidence say there were no messages left there or in the truck he used in the attack. All that was found in the truck were his identity documents and two replica assault rifles, among a number of other fake weapons.
The police believe the attack was premeditated, as he rented the truck as early as Monday afternoon from a company in Saint-Laurent-du-Var. Surveillance footage also showed him scouting out the Promenade des Anglais on two occasions before the attack.
At a press briefing on Saturday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said it is evident that Bouhlel had “become radicalized very quickly,” emphasizing the “extreme difficulty of the fight against terrorism.” Officials now have the added burden of not only keeping tabs on radicalized French youth, but they also have to focus on random entities who may spontaneously convert to one-man terrorist units, as was the case in June 2015, when Yassin Sahli murdered his boss and pinned his severed head to a fence in Lyon, surrounding it with Islamic flags.
Another such attack took place on the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo mass shooting in January, when a Moroccan man was killed as he launched a one-man attack on a police station, wearing a fake suicide belt and armed with a meat cleaver. A piece of paper was found on his body in which he pledged allegiance to IS.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Sunday, authorities “now know that the killer radicalized very quickly,” and that ISIS “is encouraging individuals unknown to our services to stage attacks.”
Fingers are being pointed at the French government after their failure to put a stop to the attacks, with the move to call up reservists and increase security in the country being seen as too little, too late.
[Photo by Francois Mori/AP Images]