Nice terrorist before attack: Send "more weapons"

Nice/Paris (dpa) - Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man behind last week's terrorist attack in Nice in which 84 people were killed, had sent a text message before the attack demanding "more weapons," French media reported Sunday, citing investigators.

The text message, investigators said, was sent to one of the four men arrested in connection with the attack on Saturday.

Bouhlel on Thursday drove 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. He used a pistol to shoot into the crowd before he himself was killed by police.

In addition to the four arrests on Saturday, a man and a woman were arrested Sunday in connection with the attack, French news agency AFP reported citing sources from the French Justice Ministry.

The attacker's ex-wife was released Sunday after being arrested on Friday. The attacker was identified as 31-year-old Tunisian national.

As of Saturday, the number of injured stood at 303, a sharp rise from initial reports of 200 as people made their way to hospital for treatment, the Health Ministry said.

There were still 121 people in hospital, with 26 still critical and at risk of dying, including five children.

Sixteen of the victims had yet to be identified, AFP reported Saturday, citing a hospital spokesman.

Among the information to come to light is that Bouhlel had scouted out the crime scene on the Tuesday and Wednesday before the attack.

And according news reports, the attacker had made efforts to settle his affairs and provide for his relatives.

French weekly Journal du Dimanche sited investigators as saying Bouhlel emptied his bank account, sold his car and told intimates about his radicalization.

British tabloid The Daily Mail in an interview with Bouhlel's brother stated that the attacker had sent around 100,000 euros (110,000 dollars) to family members in Tunisia prior to the attack.

The man appears to have become radicalized very quickly, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday, just hours after Islamic State seemed to claim responsibility for the attack.

Reports published in the name of two Islamic State 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 Islamic State'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 Islamic State in its Iraqi and Syrian territories, the statements said.

Analysts say Islamic State 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 Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Also on Saturday, French President Francois Hollande met with his security cabinet to discuss defence measures, AFP reported.

Investigators are still working to establish a motive for attack and have not yet confirmed whether the perpetrator had contacts with radicalized Islamists.

Bouhlel's father insisted in comments made to AFP that his son was not religious: "He didn't pray, he drank alcohol and even took drugs."

The Nice killings were the third major attack on French soil in 19 months, following shootings at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in January 2015, and coordinated attacks around Paris last November.

Meanwhile, the Promenade des Anglais, where the terrorist act took place, was set to reopen to the public following a minute of silence for the victims on Monday.

Last update: Sun, 17/07/2016 - 17:22
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