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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

Nice attacker was a "conceited" loner with tendencies towards violence and depression

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel killed 84 people on Thursday.

FRENCH INVESTIGATORS ARRESTED two more people today as they pieced together details about the motives and preparations of the Tunisian who rammed a truck into a crowd in an IS-claimed attack that killed 84.

Five other people are already in custody, including the estranged wife of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian with no apparent links to extremism who is said to have been radicalised very quickly.

Lahouaiej-Bouhlel visited the Nice promenade with his rented truck on the two days before he smashed the vehicle into a crowd of people watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city on Thursday night, according to a source close to the probe.

Mangled bodies were left strewn across the storied seafront, including children, in the grisly attack by a man described by those who knew him as a loner with tendencies towards violence and depression.

Bastille Day lorry attack Tributes are placed where bodies fell on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, yesterday. Source: Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Press Association Images

‘Radicalised very quickly’

While he had a record of being a petty criminal, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had never appeared on the radar of intelligence services for links to radical Islam.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday the father-of-three “seemed to have been radicalised very quickly, from what his friends and family” have told police.

Several people have told police that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel (31) had shown signs of being religious, despite previous reports from those who knew him that he smoked, drank and never went to the mosque, said a source close to the investigation.

People who went to the same gym as Lahouaiej-Bouhlel – where he did salsa dancing and lifted weights – described him as “conceited” and someone who “would flirt with anything that moved”.

Bastille Day lorry attack Armed soldiers patrol near Nice Train Station yesterday. Source: Ben Birchall

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings, saying that one of its “soldiers” carried out the attack “in response to calls to target nations of coalition states that are fighting (IS)”.

Cazeneuve described the massacre as a “a new kind of attack” which highlighted “the extreme difficulty of the anti-terrorism fight”.

“We are now confronted with individuals open to IS’s message to engage in extremely violent actions without necessarily having been trained or having the weapons to carry out a mass (casualty) attack,” he said.

Prime target

France is a prime target of IS, for its role in fighting the group in Iraq and Syria, its cherished secular values, and what the government has admitted is a “social and ethnic apartheid” that alienates its large Muslim community.

Hundreds of French jihadists have gone to fight alongside IS in Iraq and Syria.

Those inspired by IS from afar with no links to jihadist networks create a massive headache for intelligence services.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian noted that IS had recently repeated calls for supporters to “directly attack the French, Americans, wherever they are and by whatever means”.

“Even when Daesh is not the organiser, Daesh breathes life into the terrorist spirit that we are fighting,” he said, using an Arabic name for IS.

- © AFP, 2016

Read: French minister calls on all citizens to become reservists to help protect the country

Read: ‘The fear on their faces told us we had to run’: Witnesses describe chaos after Nice truck attack

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