NICE: The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Saturday for the truck attack that killed at least 84 people celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice.
Police in the meantime have arrested five people in connection with the seafront carnage. “The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State,” the Amaq news agency affiliated with the militant group said on its Telegram account.
“He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State.”
French authorities have yet to produce any evidence that the 31-year-old Tunisian killer, shot dead by police in the attack, had turned to radical Islam. Nevertheless, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after the claim that a transformation may have happened fast.
“It seems that he was radicalised very quickly — in any case these are the elements that have come up from the testimony of the people around him,” Cazeneuve told reporters.
Speaking from his home town in Tunisia, Bouhlel’s sister told Reuters he had been having psychological problems when he left for France in 2005. Other relatives and friends interviewed in Nice doubted he had militant leanings.
Saturday’s arrest of three people, which came on top of two others since the killing, including the attacker’s wife, concerned his ‘close entourage’, police sources said.
A state of emergency in place since the Paris killings last November is to be extended for another three months.
Bouhlel was known to police for petty crimes but was not on a watch list of suspected militants. He had one criminal conviction for road rage, having been sentenced to probation three months ago for throwing a wooden pallet at another driver.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2016.