The French Interior Minister gave some insight into the terrorist’s life. Some were claiming him not to be an Islamist radical, but when you join forces with ISIS… you kind of have to be.
The claim — circulated on social media by a news outlet affiliated with the group — didn’t name Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian who authorities say was behind the wheel as a truck crashed into revelers Thursday night. But the statement quoting an IS security member said the man was following calls from the group to target citizens of countries fighting it.
The veracity of the group’s claim couldn’t immediately be determined, but French officials didn’t dispute it.
What is known publicly about Bouhlel so far suggests a troubled, angry man with little interest in the group’s ultra-puritanical brand of Islam. But, in a statement to reporters, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hinted that Bouhlel may have had a last-minute adoption of a more extremist worldview.
“It seems he was radicalized very quickly,” Cazeneuve said following a ministerial meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
It’s also unclear whether or not Bouhlel, who was shot dead by police that night, had been acting alone.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said Saturday that five people are in custody following the attack. The identities of most of those taken into custody were not clear. But neighbors in the Nice neighborhood where the Bouhlel used to live told The Associated Press that his estranged wife had been taken away Friday by police.
The claim of responsibility came as French security chiefs met in Paris and as Nice’s seaside boulevard, the famous Promenade des Anglais, was slowly coming back to life. A makeshift memorial of bouquets, candles and messages had been set up near one end of the expansive avenue.