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The Nice truck attacker was into crash videos, but a lukewarm Muslim

A search of the computer of the man who killed 84 people on Friday showed no connection to Islamic State, but a taste for really violent stuff.
July 18, 2016, 5:55pm
French soldiers patrol in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral during a minute of silence is held for the victims of the 14 July Nice attack, in Paris, France, 18 July 2016. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man who used a 19-ton delivery truck to kill 84 people in Nice last week, had spent the days before the attack searching online for violent crash videos and religious material, but had no connection to radical organizations.

An analysis of his computer shows "a certain and recent interest for radical jihadist movements," Paris Prosecutor François Molins said Monday, at a press conference a few hours after the country observed a minute of silence in honor of the victims of the Friday attack.


The attack was "premeditated," Molins said, but despite the Islamic State's claim of responsibility for the attack on July 16, so far, no direct connection has been established between Lahouaiej Bouhlel and the group.

What has emerged is the profile of a man who radicalized quickly and had a fascination for violence. In the week leading up to the attack, Lahouaiej Bouhlel used his computer to look up videos of car crashes, searching for "horrific deadly accident," "terrible deadly accident," and "shocking video: not for the faint of heart."

An analysis of his browsing history showed that, between July 1 and July 13, he searched for articles on the Orlando massacre, the recent shooting in Dallas, and the killing of two police officers in Magnanville by a man claiming allegiance to IS.

He also searched on a daily basis for videos of passages from the Koran and nasheeds — religious chants often used by IS as a soundtrack to propaganda films. He also looked up Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Investigators also found images of dead bodies, and fighters brandishing Islamic State flags in his photo folder. They also found portraits of Algerian militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar and dead al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and a photo showing past covers of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which Islamist militants attacked last year.

Lahouaiej Bouhlel also looked up details of the Bastille Day festivities in Nice, as well as the address of a weapons retailer.


Molins said that some of the witnesses interviewed by the police described a man seemingly uninterested in religion, who consumed alcohol, pork and drugs, and had an "unbridled sex life." The prosecutor said that interviews with those who knew the attacker confirmed earlier reports of domestic violence against his wife and three children.

Another acquaintance, however, told police that Lahouaiej Bouhlel had recently grown a beard "for religious reasons." Yet another witness said that the attacker had shown him IS beheading videos about seven or eight months ago, saying he was "used to them."

One thing that is certain is that the attack was premeditated, and planned at the very least days ahead.

Molins said that investigators had found several photos of the Promenade des Anglais boulevard in the attacker's phone, including some that were taken the afternoon of the attack. They also found several selfies of Lahouaiej Bouhlel, including one of him in front of the beach. CCTV imagery also shows that the attacker driving his truck down the Promenade des Anglais on July 12, even stopping briefly in front of the Negresco hotel with his warning lights on.

The police also found a photo of an article published in local daily Nice Matin on January 1, 2016, titled, "He crashes deliberately into a restaurant terrace."

Molins said that six people were still being detained for questioning by the police, including one person who appears to be the recipient of a text message sent at 10:27pm on the night of the attack, mentioning a handgun. The prosecutor said investigators were still trying to figure out whether the attacker had any accomplices, but said he would not be giving any more details of the ongoing investigation at present.

He did confirm that an Albanian national was being detained on suspicion of providing Lahouaiej Bouhlel with a gun.

The prosecutor also said that the attacker had been denied a 5,000-euro loan on June 28, and that he had tried to withdraw 1,000 euros from his bank account on the day of the attack, managing to get only 550 euros. He also noted that the attacker had sold his own vehicle on the eve of the attack.

Molins added that 74 people were still being treated in hospital. He said that there were 28 people in intensive care, 19 suffering from life-threatening injuries. He added that 71 of the victims had been formally identified, and that authorities had started releasing bodies to the families for burials. Forensic teams were working round the clock to finish identifying the victims and conducting autopsies.