An Islamic State-run media outlet says the man who drove his truck into a crowd in the French coastal city of Nice is a “soldier” of the group.
The Aamaq news agency on Saturday cited a “security source” as saying the attacker “carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of coalition countries fighting the Islamic State.”
French authorities said they were checking the claim.
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.
Bouhlel was reportedly not on a terrorist watch list and investigators are seeking to establish his motives – and are also looking for possible accomplices.
Five people have been arrested following the Bastille Day attack, which injured more than 200 people on the Promenade des Anglais, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
The estranged wife of killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was still being held by police on Saturday morning, a judicial source told news agency Agence France Presse.
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. The country has begun three days of mourning.
A police source has told The Telegraph that Bouhel might have been motivated more by a desire to commit suicide than by an Islamist ideology. The source who is close to the investigation said that the 31 year old attacker may have been “a suicide case who decided to make his suicide look like an Islamist attack. Investigators are being cautious about definitively ascribing a motive for the time being.”
French President Francois Hollande met with his defence and security chiefs and cabinet ministers Saturday morning, and cancelled his forthcoming visits to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.The scheduled stops were part of a trip to five European countries meant to discuss the future of the European Union after Britain voted to leave the bloc.