Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the truck attack in Nice that killed 84 people, injured more than 200 and brought carnage to a Bastille Day fireworks celebration on Thursday night.
In a statement on Saturday, the news agency Amaq, which supports Isis, said: “The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State.
He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State.”
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian man with French residency status who lived in the Riviera city, drove a heavy-goods vehicle through a crowd that had gathered to watch the display on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais.
Later on Saturday, the Isis-operated radio station Bayan claimed that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was a soldier who had completed a “new, special operation using a truck”.
It also warned western nations that no security measures would spare them “from the blows of the mujahideen”.
The claim of responsibility, which came 36 hours after the attack, will increase pressure on French authorities investigating the massacre. No evidence was presented to support the claim that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been acting in Isis’s name.
Although President François Hollande has spoken of France facing “the threat of Islamist terrorism”, François Molins, the Paris prosecutor leading the investigation, said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had no obvious links to radical Islam.
He was “totally unknown to intelligence services… and was never flagged for signs of radicalisation”, Molins said.
Neighbours have said the attacker, who was initially reported to have dual nationality, showed no obvious interest in religion.
Speaking after the Islamic State claim, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said if Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was an Islamist militant, he must have become radicalised very quickly and that the case demonstrated the “extreme difficulty of the fight against terrorism”.
He told reporters in Paris: “In any case these are the elements that have come up from the testimony of the people around him.”
Five people had been arrested since the attack, according to judicial sources. Agence France-Presse reported that one of the people being held was arrested on Friday, while three others were detained on Saturday morning.
The driver’s estranged wife was also being held.
The promenade was reopened on Saturday morning as France began three days of national mourning and Hollande held a security meeting with ministers, police and intelligence officers.
Source: The Guardian.