France attacker ‘radicalised quickly’
The man who killed at least 84 people and injured more than 200 in Nice appears to have become radicalised very quickly, a French minister says, just hours after Islamic State seemed to claim responsibility for the attack.
On Thursday Tunisian national Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was killed by police after driving a delivery truck for 2 kilometres through crowds of people along Nice’s main promenade as a fireworks display to celebrate Bastille Day was coming to an end.
People who are susceptible to IS extremist organisation messages can be convinced without prior training to commit extremely brutal crimes, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French news agency AFP on Saturday.
At the same time, Cazeneuve said the 31-year-old wasn’t known to police to be radicalised.
Reports published in the name of two IS media outlets said that the perpetrator was one of the group’s ‘soldiers’, although they did not mention whether there had been any prior coordination with the group.
The claims were published on social media channels in the name of IS’s Aamaq news agency and in an online audio file of the daily news bulletin from the group’s al-Bayan radio.
DPA could not independently verify the authenticity of the postings, but they were in line with previous claims by the group and were widely republished by its supporters.
The perpetrator was acting in response to the group’s call for attacks on citizens of countries taking part in an international coalition fighting IS in its Iraqi and Syrian territories, the statements said.
That, along with the fact that the statements did not suggest the attacker had acted on direct orders, seemed to point to the incident being a so-called ‘lone wolf’ attack.
Analysts say IS is happy to claim such attackers as members, even if they had no prior contact with it, as long as they have stated that they pledge their allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Investigators are still working to establish a motive for attack and have not yet confirmed whether the perpetrator had contacts with radicalised Islamists.
On Friday Prime Minister Manuel Valls linked the attack to religious extremism.
‘This is a terrorist who without doubt in one way or another was linked with radical Islamism,’ Valls told broadcaster France 2 on Friday.
But Bouhlel was ‘entirely unknown’ to French intelligence authorities and wasn’t on any of their lists of at-risk individuals, French prosecutors said.
Bouhlel’s father insisted in comments made to AFP that his son was not religious.
In March he was sentenced to six months of probation for throwing a wooden pallet on a person after a car accident.
Since 2010 Bouhlel also had a history of threatening behaviour, theft, property damage and violence towards his wife, but was never incarcerated.