ISIS claims responsibility for attack on France’s Nice

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the attacker in Nice

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s deadly truck attack in Nice, France, according to a statement released this morning by the group’s media outlet.

In a statement on Saturday, the news agency Amaq, which supports Isis, said: “The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State. He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State.”

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian citizen and resident of Nice who worked as a delivery man, drove a truck into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations, killing at least 84 people and injuring 202 others. Four children remain in critical condition. One of whom is 10-years-old, but his identity remains unknown, since authorities are still trying to find family members.

The death toll is expected to rise. Of the 202 people who were injured, 80 of them were critical, and about 50 were children, many of them seriously wounded. No European attack in recent years has taken such a heavy toll on pre-teens.

Le Figaro said 16 bodies were still unidentified and five children still critical, three of them on life support, quoting a hospital spokeswoman for the Fondation Lenval, Nice Children’s hospital, which treated 30 children, the youngest aged six months.

The terror group’s claim comes as French president Francois Hollande chairs a security and defense meeting in Paris at 9 a.m. local time.

Later on Saturday, the Isis-operated radio station Bayan claimed that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was a soldier who had completed a “new, special operation using a truck”. It also warned western nations that no security measures would spare them “from the blows of the mujahideen”.

Although President François Hollande has spoken of France facing “the threat of Islamist terrorism”, François Molins, the Paris prosecutor leading the investigation, said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had no obvious links to radical Islam. He was “totally unknown to intelligence services… and was never flagged for signs of radicalisation”, Molins said.

The promenade was reopened on Saturday morning as France began three days of national mourning and Hollande held a security meeting with ministers, police and intelligence officers. As some walked along the thoroughfare beside the beach, others continued to leave floral tributes at the metal barriers lining it.

Psychiatric illness

Five people had been arrested since the attack, according to judicial sources. Agence France-Presse reported that one of the people being held was arrested on Friday, while three others were detained on Saturday morning. The driver’s estranged wife was also being held.

One of the five people detained by police is Bouhlel’s ex-wife, who was taken into custody Friday morning. The four others are not family members, but friends or acquaintances.

Investigators are working to determine whether Bouhlel had any accomplices.

People who lived near Lahouaiej-Bouhlel said they did not think he had attended a mosque.

The father of the truck driver, Monthir Bouhlel, told RTL television in Tunisia that his son had undergone psychiatric treatment in the past, was unstable and sometimes violent and he had not seen his son in four years.

“He had some difficult times. I took him to a psychiatrist, he took his treatments and he said he had a serious illness,” he said. He added that since his son moved to France he had not seen him for four years, and that their last contact was a phone call last week to mark Eid and everything was “normal”.

However, his cousin said about Bouhlel that “he used to drink alcohol and eat ham, he didn’t attend mosques at all, he wasn’t even Muslim.” ISIS