Paris: The truck driver responsible for killing 84 people on Nice’s waterfront watched Isis beheadings online and dated a 74-year-old man, it has emerged.
Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, 31, was shot dead in the cabin of the white lorry he had driven into the packed crowds celebrating Bastille Day.
French media have reported that Bouhlel’s mobile phone records show he used dating websites to meet men and women – including a 73-year-old man.
The device was picked up by police officers at the scene from the lorry’s cabin after he was shot dead. Police say the phone is proving more important to the investigation than the seven suspects in custody for their links to Bouhlel. Investigators could not confirm the Tunisian-native was approached by an Algerian Isis recruiter, stating the case was ongoing.
The driver’s uncle, Sadok Bouhlel, has told reporters that given Bouhlel’s family problems – he was estranged from his wife and three children — the Algerian recruiter “found in Mohamed an easy prey for recruitment.” The uncle said he learned about the Algerian recruiter from extended family members who live in Nice.
Bouhlel’s rapid radicalisation has puzzled investigators as friends and family said he had not been an observant Muslim in the past. Despite Isis having claimed the attack, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio Bouhlel may have been motivated by IS messages but not necessarily coordinating with a larger network.
Sadok Bouhlel, a 69-year-old retired teacher, in the driver’s hometown of Msaken, Tunisia said: “Mohamed didn’t pray, didn’t go to the mosque and ate pork.” Sadok is devastated by his nephew’s act, and doesn’t want him buried in Msaken, saying: “He made more than 80 families grieve, and stained the reputation of our town and our country.”