NICE, France — The man who carried out the Bastille Day rampage bears a striking resemblance to the perpetrators of similar attacks in Paris and Brussels over the past two years: a petty criminal known to authorities who was not considered a serious threat to national security.

The attacker, identified by authories on Friday as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born delivery man, fits an increasingly familiar profile. Bouhlel had a significant record of crime and violence, albeit one that does not currently include any known links to terrorist networks, Paris prosecutor François Molins said.

Bouhlel’s record stretches back six years and includes charges for threats and violence. In March, Molins told reporters, he was sentenced to six months in prison for assault with a weapon for an incident in January.

It was not clear whether Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people when he drove a truck into a crowd Thursday night, served any portion of that sentence.

Like Bouhlel, many of the people implicated in recent attacks in France and in Belgium had police records that included convictions for violence or petty crimes. While some were on the radar of intelligence services monitoring radical networks, others had been relative unknowns until they struck.


When police finally shot Bouhlel to death after a rampage extending more than a mile of Nice’s popular seaside stretch, they found a small arsenal in the 19-ton truck’s cab, including automatic pistols, assault rifles and a grenade.

But left unclear Friday was a motive: Bouhlel did not leave behind a declaration of intent, and the Islamic State has not asserted responsibility for his actions, although supporters celebrated the attack on social media.

Molins said the attack precisely fit the profile of Islamist extremist violence and threats but added that Bouhlel had no known links with terrorist groups.

The details of Bouhlel’s journey from petty criminal to mass murder remain opaque. On Friday, Corentin Delobel, the lawyer who had defended him in March, was interviewed on French television.

“When I defended him in March,” Delobel said, “he didn’t have an apparent psychological problem, and he did not have the air of someone radicalized.”

Even if Bouhlel was “not at all respectful of police officers or justice,” he was “very calm, nonchalant, indifferent,” continued Delobel, who did not immediately return request for comment on Friday evening.

The descriptions of Bouhlel’s criminal history came hours after Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the mass killing as a terrorist attack that had struck France “in its soul on 14 July, our national day.”


The choice of Bastille Day highlighted another uncomfortable commonality between Bouhlel and other terrorists implicated in the three major recent attacks in France: He had French nationality, choosing to attack a country – and a city – that was also his own.

On Friday morning, police raided his apartment in the predominately working-class north section of the city, where many minority residents live in complexes of concrete-block, high-rise buildings far from the seaside Promenade des Anglais that Bouhlel attacked.

In the afternoon, as elderly neighbors dragged in carts of groceries, young men and teenagers smoked and talked in the parking lot of the complex where Bouhlel lived, which was littered with broken bottles and other trash. When asked if they knew Bouhlel, they began to disperse.

A 68-year-old neighbor who declined to be identified beyond his first name, Mohamed, said he had seen the suspected assailant in the apartment complex and thought he had a wife and three children. Molins said that Bouhlel was married with children, but did not say how many.

Mohamed, who said he had immigrated to France from his native Tunisia in 1966, heaped scorn on Bouhlel and other young immigrants and children of immigrants who have carried out terrorist attacks in his country over the past two years. “They’re just insane,” he said.

He brushed aside the frequent explanation that certain members of that young, mostly male, immigrant demographic act out of retaliation because of social isolation. Coming to France as a young man, he said, had been “hard, so hard, but not too hard.”

“We were extremely badly treated – we had no housing, there was no support for Arabs, and we lived like dogs. But we did things for France,” said Mohamed, now retired from a career as a builder. “France respects me, and I respect it – that’s all there is to it.”


Another neighbor, who gave her name as Monique, said she was “horrified” to learn that the killer had lived in her apartment complex. She said the area was plagued by unemployment, and that was the root of the recent attacks.

“There are no morals anymore,” said Monique, 72, who would not give her last name but who lives in the same building as the apartment searched Friday.

Of the many Muslims who live in her building and the complex, she said, some, especially those of the older generation, are “very dignified.” But, she added, “if those who come here are welcomed by France – given food, places to live – there has to be gratitude.”

Gesturing to the shell of an old car rusting in the sun, she said, “If I had more money, I wouldn’t be living here.”

Police were investigating Friday whether Bouhlel had acted alone, or whether he had support from accomplices. His ex-wife was detained Friday for questioning.

Citing Tunisian security officials, Reuters reported that Bouhlel was originally from the Tunisian town of Msaken and had last visited the North African nation four years ago.

Witte reported from London. Annabell van den Berghe in Nice and Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.

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