Nice killer fascinated with violence

2016-07-18 22:09
A man is overcome by emotion after a minute of silence on the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice. (Francois Mori, AP)

A man is overcome by emotion after a minute of silence on the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice. (Francois Mori, AP)

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Paris - The first sign that the Nice truck attacker was planning something violent came about eight months ago, when he snapped a picture of a news story headlined: "Man deliberately rams car into café terrace."

Around the same time, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel showed a friend a video of a hostage being decapitated, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, revealing details of the investigation to reporters on Monday.

"When [the witness] expressed his surprise, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel said 'I am used to it'," said Molins.

'Unbridled sexual activity'

Many people interviewed by investigators described the Tunisian father of three as "someone who did not practise the Muslim religion, ate pork, drank alcohol, took drugs and had an unbridled sexual activity".

However Molins said a "clear, recent interest in the radical jihadist movement" had emerged before Bouhlel rammed a 19-ton truck into a crowd on Bastille Day in the Mediterranean resort city of Nice, killing 84 people.

However, there has been no clear link established to the Islamic State group which claimed the attack, saying Bouhlel was one of its "soldiers".

Analyses of his computer and cellphone showed a wide-range of images and internet searches showing a fascination with violence and jihadist movements such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Researched Orlando attack

From July 1 Bouhlel made near-daily searches for video of nasheeds - religious chants used in Islamic State propaganda - as well as videos of readings from the Qur'an.

He also looked for information on the fasting month of Ramadan which ended earlier this month.

In addition, he searched for information about the terror attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead, and the Paris suburb of Magnanville - where a police couple were killed last month.

Both were linked to ISIS.

'Premeditated nature'

Bouhlel also had "very violent" photos on his computer, of corpses, fighters posing with the ISIS flag, photos of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden as well as Mokhtar Belmokhtar - a former commander for al-Qaeda's north Africa branch who has since formed his own group Al-Murabitoun.

There was also a photo of the cover of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were gunned down by brothers in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda in Yemen in Paris in January 2015.

Molins said the attack was "of a premeditated nature".

From July 1 Bouhlel had searched for information about the Bastille Day fireworks display online and searches such as "horrible fatal accident", "terrible fatal accident" and "shocking videos not for sensible viewers".

'Religious beard'

He also researched truck rental agencies and looked up the address of a weapons store.

He reserved the rental truck on July 4, around the time he stopped shaving his beard, one witness told investigators.

When questioned about his facial hair Bouhlel responded: "The meaning of this beard is religious".

After picking up the truck on July 11, Bouhlel staked out the site of the carnage on the Promenade des Anglais at 18:00 on July 12 when video surveillance showed him briefly stopping the truck along the road, and again at 22:00 on July 13, roughly 24 hours before he would launch his attack.

Taking selfies

On the day of the Bastille Day carnage he appeared to have spent much of the national holiday on the promenade, taking selfies on the beach and the walkway throughout the afternoon.

Molins said "instructions" from ISIS to its supporters abroad to carry out attacks "can lead certain individuals to take action in France without needing to go to Syria and without precise orders".

"Adhesion to these instructions, radicalisation, can happen even faster when aimed at disturbed individuals or those fascinated by violence.

"Either way, this is a terrorist act."

Read more on:    isis  |  france

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