Witnesses says the driver screamed, “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic — before his deadly attack that killed 84 people
Breaking News: A Turkish army group has announced on TV a takeover of the country
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
NICE, FRANCE (ANS – July 15, 2016) — The driver of the rented truck that killed 84 people in the Thursday evening attack in the French Riviera city of Nice, has been confirmed as Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, 31.
Witnesses says that the truck driver screamed, “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic — before opening fire on the crowd Thursday night and then driving through the throngs of people.
Britain’s Daily Mail says that it had been claimed that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was parked on the promenade for nearly nine hours before the attack, but was allowed to stay because he “told police he was delivering ice cream.”
Besides the 84 dead, including 10 children, a further 202 people were injured; 52 are critical, of whom 25 are on life support.
Some 30,000 people were on the Promenade des Anglais at the time of the attack, officials said.
Residents of Nice and foreign tourists were among those who died. They included four French citizens, three Algerians, a teacher and two schoolchildren from Germany, three Tunisians, two Swiss, two Americans, a Ukrainian, an Armenian and a Russian.
The son of Fatima Charrihi, a 60-year-old Nice resident from Morocco, said that his mother was the first to die. He said she “practiced Islam in the proper way. A real Islam, not the terrorists’ version.”
According to the BBC, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove the 19-tonne truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day at about 22:45 local time (20:45 GMT). He fired at officers with a 7.65mm caliber automatic pistol when the vehicle was close to the Negresco hotel and continued for another 300m, where his vehicle was stopped near the Palais de la Mediterranee hotel, and he was shot dead.
“Also found in the lorry )truck) were an ammunition magazine, a fake pistol, replica Kalashnikov and M16 rifles, and a dummy grenade,” said the BBC. “There was also a bicycle, empty pallets, documents and a mobile phone. Items were later seized from his Nice home.”
Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a chauffeur and delivery man, had three children but had separated from his wife, who was taken into police custody on Friday.
He was known to the police as a petty criminal, but was “totally unknown to intelligence services… and was never flagged for signs of radicalization,” said French prosecutor Francois Molins.
A woman who knows the family told the BBC that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was thrown out of their home in the Le Ray area of Nice more than a year ago after allegedly beating his wife.
Other neighbor’s told France’s BFM-TV that he had become depressed following the divorce of his wife. Some neighbors said prior to the attack he was “depressed and unstable, even aggressive.”
Prime Minister Manuel Valls later told France 2 television that Bouhlel was a “terrorist without doubt linked to radical Islamism in one way or another.”
Tunisian security sources said Bouhlel came from the Tunisian town of Msaken and that he visited Tunisia frequently, the last time being eight months ago.
Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said the suspect had been given a suspended sentence earlier this year following a confrontation with another driver but this was his only conviction.
Eye-witness, Nader el-Shafei, told the BBC he saw the driver face-to-face for about a minute, stating, “He was very nervous… looking for something around him, I kept yelling at him and waving my hands to stop… he picked up his gun and started to shoot police.”
Afterwards he said he ran towards the beach with others, fearing the driver, who was then shot by police, would detonate the truck.
A driver’s license and bank card bearing his name were found inside the lorry by officers soon after they shot dead the attacker.
On Friday, investigators and forensic experts raided his apartment in the working-class Abattoirs area, not far from Nice’s main railway station.
Tunisian security sources told BBC Arabic that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was from the northern town of Msaken, about 6 miles outside the coastal city of Sousse.
A media report said that his divorced parents lived in France, but he had relatives living in Msaken and visited Tunisia frequently, the last time eight months ago, the sources added.
Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference on Friday that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been in trouble with police between 2010 and 2016 for threatening behavior, violence and petty theft.
In March, a court in Nice convicted him of assaulting a motorist with an improvised weapon during an altercation and handed him a six-month suspended prison sentence.
Following the attack, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, issued an urgent call for prayer. “As the French rejoice in their liberty, human evil kills the innocent cruelly,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Let us weep with them, let us stand with them. #PrayForNice.”
It is ironic that the so-called Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests (both non-violent and violent), riots, and civil wars in the Arab world that began on December 18, 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution, and spread throughout the countries of the Arab League and its surroundings.
Major insurgencies in Syria, Libya, and Yemen resulted along with civil uprisings in Egypt and Bahrain, large street demonstrations in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman, and minor protests even in Saudi Arabia.
Breaking News: A Turkish army group has announced on TV a takeover of the country
The BBC has just said that an army group in Turkey says it has taken control of the country, with bridges closed in Istanbul and aircraft flying low over Ankara.
Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim earlier denounced an “illegal action” by a military “group,” stressing it was not a coup. He said that the government remained in charge.
“Traffic has been stopped from crossing both the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges in Istanbul,” said the BBC. “There are reports of gunshots in the capital Ankara.
“Gunfire was also heard outside Istanbul police HQ and tanks are said to be stationed outside Istanbul airport. All flights are cancelled.”
CNN Turk reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “safe” but did not elaborate.
A statement from the military group read out on NTV television said: “The power in the country has been seized in its entirety.” However, the BBC stated that “Who represents the group remains uncertain.”
A Turkish presidential source told Reuters that the statement was not authorized by the military command.
Mr Yildirim told NTV by telephone: “We are working on the possibility of an attempt. We will not allow this attempt.
“Those who are in this illegal act will pay the highest price,” he added, saying it would not be correct to describe the move as a “coup.”
He said: “There was an illegal act by a group within the military that was acting out of the chain of military command. Our people should know that we will not allow any activity that would harm democracy.”
There are reports Turkey’s top general has been taken hostage at the military HQ.
Photo captions: 1) The killer’s ID. 2) The truck surround by first-responders after the driver was killed. (Reuters). 3) Bodies strewn in the street. 4) Justin Welby. 5) Turkey: The Bosphorus bridge was blocked off by military units (Getty Images). 6) Dan and Norma Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. In addition, he has a radio program and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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