The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack
in which a Tunisian drove a truck through a crowd in Nice, killing 84,
prompting hard questions in France over security failures.
statement via its Amaq news service Isis said one of its “soldiers”
carried out the attack on Friday “in response to calls to target nations
of coalition states that are fighting (Isis)”.
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31, smashed a 19-tonne truck into crowd of people in
the Riviera city who were celebrating Bastille Day — France’s national
day. Police said he had no known connection to jihadist groups.
President Francois Hollande met with his defence and security chiefs
and cabinet ministers as criticism from the opposition and media mounted
over security failings after the third major attack in France in 18
“If we are at war, as the government tells us, then the
currency of war is intelligence, learning from experience, analysing
failures and victories,” wrote Yann Marec in an editorial for the
southern region’s Midi Libre newspaper.
He was one of several
calling for action, and not merely “the same old solemn declarations”
from the government, as Le Figaro daily said.
Some 30,000 people
had thronged the palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais on Thursday night
to watch a fireworks display with their friends and families, but the
night turned to horror as the truck left mangled bodies strewn in its
“Flaws and shortcomings”
Hollande said the country would observe three
days of mourning as he warned the death toll could rise further, with
more than 50 people still fighting for their lives.
Four more people linked to Lahouaiej-Bouhlel have been arrested. The driver’s estranged wife is also being held by police.
also claimed responsibility for November 13 attacks in which 130 people
were killed in Paris, while gunmen in January 2015 attacks on the
Charlie Hebdo weekly and a Jewish supermarket were linked to both IS and
The massacre has once again shaken the country to its
core, and prompted questions about the effectiveness of security
measures with the country already under an eight month-long state of
Police investigate the scene after a truck plowed through Bastille Day revellers in Nice. Photo / AP
France, which has a Muslim population of nearly five
million, is also the origin of hundreds of jihadists who have flocked to
fight alongside IS.
Presidential contender and former prime
minister Alain Juppe said Friday that the latest carnage could have been
prevented if “all measures” had been taken.
spokesman Stephane Le Foll slammed Juppe’s comments, saying there was as
much security present for the fireworks display as there had been for
the Euro 2016 football tournament in the city.
He said there were
more than 185 police, gendarmes and soldiers on the ground, as well as
municipal police and a vast network of surveillance cameras.
“Despite all of that, this man’s decisions… created the drama and horror we experienced.”
A French parliamentary inquiry last week criticised numerous failings by the intelligence services over the Paris attacks.
“We know of course that there are still flaws and shortcomings,” said Hollande.
“Government intervention is imperative in that area in order to better coordinate our intelligence services,” he added.
People comfort each other as they gather at a makeshift memorial to honor the victims of the Nice terror attack. Photo / AP
A depressed loner
will also face questions over how Lahouaiej-Bouhlel slipped through the
cracks, as initial investigations showed he had a record of petty crime
and domestic violence, but no known connection to terrorist groups.
prosecutor Francois Molins said the attack was “exactly in line with”
calls from jihadist groups for supporters to kill in their home
For several years, extremist groups such as IS and
Al-Qaeda have exhorted followers to strike “infidels” — singling out
France on several occasions — using whatever means they have to hand.
In September 2014, IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, suggested supporters “run (infidels) over with your car”.
some attacks on the West — such as the November assault on Paris and
the March bombings in Brussels — were carried out by jihadists who have
been to the centre of IS operations in Iraq and Syria, others have been
led by so-called “lone-wolf” attackers.
Inspired from afar by Islamist propaganda, such attackers are a massive headache for intelligence services.
authorities in France frantically search for clues that might indicate a
network of supporters of the kind that emerged after the Paris attacks
last November, what is known so far about Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel
suggests a troubled, angry loner with little interest in Islam.
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Photo / Supplied
The father-of-three was born in Msaken, a town in Tunisia, but
moved to France years ago and was living in the country legally, working
as a delivery driver.
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s father said he had suffered from depression and had “no links” to religion.
2002 to 2004, he had problems that caused a nervous breakdown. He would
become angry and he shouted… he would break anything he saw in front
of him,” Mohamed Mondher Lahouaiej-Bouhlel said in Tunisia.
“Each time he had a crisis, we took him to the doctor who gave him medication.”
His son hadn’t visited Tunisia in four years and hadn’t stayed in contact with his family, he said.
I know is that he didn’t pray, he didn’t go to the mosque, he had no
ties to religion,” said the father, noting that Bouhlel didn’t respect
the Islamic fasting rituals during the month of Ramadan.
Neighbours described the attacker as a loner who never responded to their greetings.
He and his wife had three children, but she had demanded a divorce after a “violent argument”, one neighbour said.
Bouhlel had had a series of run-ins with the law for threatening behavior, violence and theft over the past six years.
In March, he was given a six-month suspended sentence by a Nice court for a road-rage incident.
A baby carriage is left on the beach a day after a truck mowed through revellers. Photo / AP
His court-appointed lawyer, Corentin Delobel, said he
observed “no radicalisation whatsoever,” and Paris prosecutor Francois
Molins said Bouhlel was never placed on a watch list for radicals.
Still, Bouhlel could have felt inspired by calls from extremist groups to carry out acts of murder in France, said Molins.
Nice, the seaside streets that would normally be bustling on a summer
weekend were near-deserted, with teary residents making their way to the
promenade to lay down flowers in memory of the dead.
At least 10
children and teenagers were among the dead as well as tourists from the
United States, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany.