What We Know About the Man Behind France’s Latest Terror Attack

The man behind the attack that killed at least 84 was a Tunisian immigrant with a record of violent crime but no known ties to terrorism.

by Matt Taylor
Jul 15 2016, 6:23pm

The truck used by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel to attack a celebration of Bastille Day in Nice on Thursday. At least 84 were killed and dozens more wounded. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The driver of the 19-ton truck that rammed into about 200 people in Nice, France, late Thursday, killing at least 84, has been identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a petty criminal and delivery man with no known ties to extremist groups.

Citing a French police official, theWashington Post reports Bouhlel was a Tunisian immigrant with a record of violent but not terrorist-related crime. The name was unearthed using the ID, cellphone, bank docs, and other material recovered from the truck he used to attack the crowd that had just taken in a fireworks display marking Bastille Day in the tourist-friendly capital of the French Riviera.

Initial probes were underway to determine whether Bouhlel, who had been previously charged with domestic violence, theft, and violent assault, acted alone. But with a lack of clear ties to extremist organizations and no initial claim of responsibility from ISIS on any of that group's official channels, the savage assault seemed more the work of an isolated loner than a coordinated assault—more akin to the Orlando nightclub mass shooting than the Bataclan assault last fall.

If nothing else, Bouhlel's savagery—he drove through a crowd of humanity for over a mile—seemed to spur the French government into further action, sparking a prompt extension of the controversial national state of emergency that has limited civil liberties for some residents.

Bouhlel apparently fired shots at the cops attempting to shoot him dead behind the wheel of the massive vehicle, and he ultimately succumbed to the barrage of police gunfire. An unused grenade was found in the truck, which an employee of the Via Location rental agency outside Nice told the Post was rented Monday.

"The threat of terrorism, as we have now been saying for a long time, is weighing heavily on France, and it will continue to do so for a long time yet," the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, said in Paris. "We are facing a war waged on us by terrorism."

It was the latest act of public violence where the immediate aftermath was distributed widely on social media, with abhorrent images of bloody corpses flooding the internet not long after the truck plunged into the crowd around 10:30 PM local time.

Consistent with some recent terrorist assailants who almost spontaneously seemed to claim the banner of ISIS or other Islamic militant groups, Bouhlel was described by people who knew him as not especially religious. If anything, the father of three, who had only had recently acquired his trucking license, was said to lust after women, as the Guardian reports. A French TV outlet reported Bouhlel was disgruntled after a heated divorce from his wife.

There is still much to be learned about Bouhlel, like how long he'd been in the country, and whether and how he was radicalized. But no matter the cause of his anger, it is now the source of the world's grief.

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