Lahouaiej Bouhlel was originally from Tunisia and had lived in France for years.
He was married with children, but was reportedly estranged from his wife.
He was known to local police as a criminal, but had no known ties to terror groups.
A truck driver who killed and injured scores of people in Nice, France, on Thursday has been identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, according to French media and CBS News. He was from the Tunisian town of Msaken, Reuters reports.
The white truck barreled into a large crowd that had gathered on a promenade to watch a Bastille Day fireworks display in the Mediterranean city. Witnesses said bodies were scattered over a mile down the road. The driver stopped and bolted out of the truck to shoot at pedestrians, according to the TV station France 24.
The attacker died during a gun battle with police. Authorities later found an ID and bank card identifying Lahouaiej Bouhlel inside the truck, along with two pistols, two fake assault weapons, cartridges, a charger and one pierced grenade, Paris prosecutor François Molins said.
Police sources told The Associated Press and French media that Lahouaiej Bouhlel was known for local crimes. He was “entirely unknown” to terror police, according to Molins. The prosecutor said authorities “will try to determine whether he benefited from accomplices,” or had any relationship with Islamist terrorist organizations, Reuters reported.
Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a truck driver, Molins said, and rented the vehicle he used in the attack on July 13. Molins confirmed that Lahouaiej Bouhlel had been convicted of assault and accused of domestic violence. According to Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas, he beat a motorist with a wooden object after a minor traffic accident.
Tunisia attempted to distance itself from Lahouaiej Bouhlel, asking officials to refer to him only as French and calling his heritage “irrelevant.” He was a legal resident of France, but not a French citizen, according to Molins.
He was just not stable psychologically and mentally. Rabab Lahouaiej Bouhlel, describing her brother
Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a married father of three, French media reported. AFP said that authorities raided his apartment, located in a middle-class Nice neighborhood, on Friday morning. But neighbors told the AP that he was estranged from his wife and hadn’t lived in the apartment in years. Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s wife is now in police custody.
“He was always alone,” his neighbor told BBC News. “I only ever saw him on his own.”
“He made you feel frightened,” added the man, who said he saw Lahouaiej Bouhlel every day. “Not in his looks, but in the way he looked at you.”
One neighbor told the Guardian that she “was really scared of him.”
“All I knew is that he had trouble with his wife, but we never saw her or their kids,” she said. “He spent a lot of his time at a bar down the street where he gambled and drank.”
In an interview with HuffPost Arabi, Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s sister, Rabab, said her brother was “temperamental and aggressive.”
“My brother did not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, but he also did not pray and never entered a mosque in his life,” she said. “He was just not stable psychologically and mentally. His wife and her mother both complained about his violent behavior towards her.”
She added that their family was in shock following Thursday’s attack.
Authorities deemed the violence a “terrorist act” and extended a state of emergency for three months, though a motive is not yet known and there have been no claims of responsibility.
France has suffered several major terrorist attacks recently. Attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and a kosher supermarket in Paris killed 16 people in January 2015. A series of coordinated attacks around the French capital in November, including a hostage crisis at the Bataclan theater, killed 130 people.
“Horror has again struck France,” French President Francois Hollande said in an address.
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