Cars and trucks were barred from the Promenade des Anglais during Thursday’s Bastille Day festivities, but the terrorist who plowed a 19-ton truck into a mile-long crowd of revelers – killing at least 84 – reportedly got past police by telling them he had ice cream to hand out.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old divorced loner, petty criminal and Tunisian national began his route of carnage by slowly moving onto the packed, seaside walkway around 10:40 p.m. local time. Then, say witnesses, he gunned the engine and weaved through the horrified crowd for nearly a mile, leaving a wake of dead and broken bodies. Police killed him in a shootout minutes later.
“Such a monstrosity,” French President Francois Hollande said Friday. “France is deeply saddened, but it is also very strong. I can assure you we will always be stronger than the fanatics who are trying to attack us.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but two sources, including a U.S. counterterrorism source who collects and monitors jihadist social media, told Fox News that accounts linked to ISIS were “celebratory” and their followers were told to use the hashtag “Nice.”
Bouhlel, who shot at revelers after driving through the crowd and was then killed by police, was reportedly known to police prior to the attack although his rap sheet included just one arrest, for a road rage incident in March French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said.
“There was an altercation between him and another driver and he hurled a wooden pallet at the man,” Urvoas told reporters.
Bouhlel was given a suspended sentence and had to contact police once a week, which he did, Urvoas said.
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