Yet media the world over did everything they could to portray the brutal jihad attack as anything but Islamic. The truck, the guns, marital problems, mental issues, he ate pork and drank booze, climate change…
MSAKEN, Tunisia (AP) — The uncle of the truck driver who killed 84 people on the French Riviera says his nephew was indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of the Islamic State group in Nice, as anti-terrorism authorities question potential accomplices in the devastating attack.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said Bouhlel had expressed support for the Islamic State group and searched online for information about the Orlando attack on a gay nightclub. Searches of Bouhlel’s computer and phone showed his online searches relating to IS, other jihadi groups and violent images, Molins said.
The driver’s uncle, Sadok Bouhlel, told The Associated Press in Tunisia that given Bouhlel’s family problems – he was estranged from his wife and three children – the Algerian extremist “found in Mohamed an easy prey for recruitment.”
French officials couldn’t confirm Monday that attacker Bouhlel had been approached by an Algerian recruiter, saying that the investigation is ongoing.
Bouhlel’s rapid radicalization has puzzled investigators. Friends and family said he hadn’t been an observant Muslim in the past. Cazeneuve said Monday on RTL radio that the driver may have been motivated by IS messages, but not necessarily coordinating with a larger network.
“Mohamed didn’t pray, didn’t go to the mosque and ate pork,” said the uncle, a 69-year-old retired teacher, in the driver’s hometown of Msaken, Tunisia. The uncle said he learned about the Algerian recruiter from extended family members who live in Nice.
Dr. Raj Persaud, a consultant psychiatrist and professor at London’s Gresham College, said Bouhlel’s path toward violent extremism might have been longer than people around him noticed.
“This is someone who was already deeply disturbed and had already been on a journey, and at the end of it, maybe there was what looks like a rapid process of radicalization. But that was just what crystallized his beliefs, a lot of the huge transformation had already occurred in the background,” he said.
Seven people are in custody in the probe into the Nice attack. Three of the suspects were brought to French intelligence headquarters in Paris on Monday to face eventual terrorism charges, according to a security official.
Authorities investigating the truck driver who killed 84 people in a Bastille Day attack painted a complex picture Monday of a man who did not seem devout but had recently become interested in jihadi violence and researched past attacks in France and the United States, including one on a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said by all accounts Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel drank, ate pork and had an “unbridled sex life.” But his computer and phone showed online searches relating to IS and other jihadi groups.
“A search of his computer illustrates a clear … and recent interest in radical jihadism,” Molins said, adding that Bouhlel had recently grown a beard and told people it was for religious reasons. While officials have said the attack was obviously premeditated, they have not found any evidence that Bouhlel had coordinated with an extremist network.
Internet searches on Bouhlel’s computer included Islamic propaganda chants, the terms “horrible deadly accidents,” and the recent attacks against the gay nightclub in Orlando, police officers in Dallas, and the killing of two police officials in Magnanville, outside of Paris.
One witness told authorities that Bouhlel seemed accustomed to looking at decapitation videos, Molins said.
As investigators continue to look into the attacker’s motives, his uncle in Tunisia, Sadok Bouhlel, told The Associated Press his nephew had been indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of the Islamic State group in Nice. He said Bouhlel’s family problems – he was estranged from his wife and three children – made him easy prey for the Algerian recruiter.
And what do recruiters reference? The Koran. The life of Muhammad. 74 virgins.
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