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Nice terror attack: Muslim truck driver who killed 84

A terrorist who used a hired lorry to kill at least 84 people in a rampage during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice has been named as a convicted criminal well known to the police for armed attacks.

Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel – described as a “weird loner” who “became depressed” when his wife left him – was a French passport holder who lived in the Riviera city and was regularly in trouble with the law.

The 31-year-old delivery driver’s wife is this afternoon in police custody as officers question her about his alleged Islamist links. Bouhlel was reportedly not on a terrorist watch list and investigators are seeking to establish his motives – and are also looking for possible accomplices.

At least 10 children are among the dead following the “cowardly and barbaric” atrocity that left several British national among the many injured.

Officials feared the death toll will rise, as dramatic footage emerged of the mass killer being shot dead by police in the cab of his truck after unleashing carnage on the 30,000-strong crowd.

'Loner' Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was killed by police after unleashing carnage on the 30,000-strong crowd in Nice
‘Loner’ Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was killed by police after unleashing carnage on the 30,000-strong crowd in Nice CREDIT: MATRIX

As hundreds remained in hospital – including 50 fighting for their lives in intensive care – investigators have been searching the home of Bouhlel in the Abattoirs area of Nice and carried out a controlled explosion on a white box van nearby.

Investigating sources said Bouhlel’s last appearance in a criminal court was as recently as March, when he was found guilty of violent contact. Despite this, he had no known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance.

An investigating source said: “An operation is currently underway at the dead suspect’s home in Nice. It is being raided by officers.”

Nice attack aftermath
The driver reportedly zig-zagged his way through the crowds along the promenadeCREDIT: MATRIXPICTURES.CO.UK

Neighbours described him as a “very weird loner” and father of three who had recently become estranged from his wife and had become depressed following the breakdown of his marriage.

A woman living in the same shabby apartment block as Bouhel today told how he “seemed very weird”. She told The Telegraph: “He lived alone. He said very little to anyone and wasn’t very polite. He wouldn’t hold the door open for you.”

Bouhel left his French identity card in the hired 19-tonne lorry used to murder dozens of people on Thursday night.

His truck had zigzagged through crowds massing on the Promenade des Anglais, killing anyone he could.

French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck that ran into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day CREDIT: ERIC GAILLARD

After being stopped by armed police, who fired bullets into the lorry’s windscreen, the so far unnamed man exchanged fire with officers using a 7.65 pistol, before being shot dead.

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“He was known to the police for violence, and using weapons, but had no direct links with terrorism,” said an investigating source. “His identity car was found in the lorry. He had French and Tunisian nationality.”

A search of the vehicle uncovered a pistol, a larger gun, and a number of fake weapons and grenades.

Police approach the driver cab of the truck in Nice after the attack
Police approach the driver cab of the truck in Nice after the attack CREDIT: NADER EL SHAFEI /AP

The fact that the killer was known to the authorities will be of grave concern to those trying to prevent terrorist attacks in France.

A recent Paris parliamentary investigation into last year’s attacks identified multiple failings by France’s intelligence agencies.

New Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain must redouble its efforts to defeat  “brutal” terrorist “murderers” after the “horrifying” attack, as she called a meeting of senior officials in the Government’s  emergency Cobra committee.

Debris left on the promenade after the terror attack that killed dozens in Nice
Debris left on the promenade after the terror attack that killed dozens in Nice CREDIT:REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

As the United Nations issued a statement calling the latest “cowardly and barbaric”, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted: “The city of Nice has been hit by terrorism on the day of our national holiday. Immense pain, the country is in mourning. The French will face it.”

President Francois Hollande meanwhile spoke of a “monstrosity”, and said soldiers would be deployed to support gendarmes and police, particularly at the country’s borders.

Wounded people are evacuated from the scene
Wounded people are evacuated from the scene CREDIT: OLIVIER ANRIGO

A State of Emergency imposed last year after almost 150 people were killed during attacks on Paris will be extended to July 26, Mr Hollande added.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “We are at war with terrorists who want to strike us at any cost and who are extremely violent.”

Tony Molina, an American witness to the attack, said: “There was still a crowd of people and then you just see this big white panel truck, I couldn’t see the driver, but it just kept going at different angles from left to right at 25 to 30 miles and hour.

“People were screaming and running. I work in homicide and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s unbelievable.”

Tourists fled the scene of the Nice terror attack
Tourists fled the scene of the Nice terror attack CREDIT: SIPA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
People cross the street with their hands on thier heads as a French soldier secures the area
People cross the street with their hands on thier heads as a French soldier secures the area CREDIT: JEAN-PIERRE AMET/REUTERS
Forensics officers at the scene of the attack
Forensics officers at the scene of the attack CREDIT:  LIONEL URMAN/SIPA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

The Promenade Anglais was packed on what is traditionally the biggest public holiday in France, when the man struck soon after 10.30pm local time (21:30 BST)

The white lorry mounted the pavement repeatedly at approximately 40mph and steered directly towards men, women, and children, some of whom were still dressed for the beach.

“People went down like ninepins,” a man who runs Le Queenie restaurant on the seafront told France Info radio.

Police researchers inspect the scene of the lorry crash on Friday morning
Police researchers inspect the scene of the lorry crash on Friday morning  CREDIT:ALBERTO ESTEVEZ/EPA
Forensic police work on the scene of the truck attack
Forensic police work on the scene of the truck attack CREDIT: LUCA BRUNO/AP
People look at a truck stand guarded by the police on the Promenade des Anglais seafront 
People look at a truck stand guarded by the police on the Promenade des Anglais seafront  CREDIT: CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/GETTY

British holidaymaker Esther Serwah, 59, was staying in a hotel a short walk from the scene. She said she had been on her way to the Promenade des Anglais for dinner with her daughters when people started screaming at her.

Mrs Serwah, from Surrey, said: “I was just walking to the Promenade and then I saw everybody running and I just didn’t know what was going on. People were screaming at me in French but I didn’t understand.

“Some people were lying on the streets dead and people were running over the bodies. Everybody was saying it’s a terrorist attack. It’s just horrible, horrible, horrible. I’m in shock. I’m still shaking.”

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Via: telegraph.co.uk

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