French Authorities Continue Investigation Into Attack In Nice

Jul 15, 2016
Originally published on July 15, 2016 8:39 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now the latest on last night's terrorist attack in Nice, France. Here's what we know. A 31-year-old French-Tunisian man drove a truck onto a sidewalk. Then he accelerated through a crowd that had gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks show. He killed at least 84 people and injured more than 200. Here's what President Obama said earlier today.

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BARACK OBAMA: We don't know all the details, but what we know is the capacity of even a single individual to do extraordinary harm.

SHAPIRO: He also offered his condolences to the people of France. French authorities say no specific terrorist group has taken responsibility for the attack. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston joins us with more on the investigation. Hi, Dina.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: What have you learned about who this truck driver was?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the truck driver has been identified as Mohamed Bouhlel, and the French prime minister said publicly that while he couldn't confirm the attacker's motives, he believes Bouhlel is probably linked to radical Islam one way or another.

The French interior minister and U.S. sources that we've been speaking with, who have been briefed on the investigation, aren't going quite that far. Part of the reason they're treading more carefully is because the driver hasn't shown up on any terrorist watch lists. And so far - and again, it's still early in the investigation - they haven't been able to find any jihadist connection with this driver.

SHAPIRO: What have investigators pieced together about how last night unfolded?

TEMPLE-RASTON: The French prosecutor, Francois Molins, provided a lot of basic information about what happened. They have found video footage of this big, white refrigerated truck on the outskirts of Nice. And they found that from yesterday afternoon. And Molins says that they have footage of Bouhlel riding up to the truck on a bicycle alone. And then he stayed there for several hours. Then the cameras pick him up again on the west side of town, then on the Promenade Des Anglais, which is where he turned into the crowd and accelerated.

Molins also said that he drove about two kilometers - a little over a mile - down the Promenade, hitting people as he went. And he fired several times on three police officers who were chasing the truck. And then he went for about another 300 meters and stopped. Molins said he was - the driver was found dead on the front seat of the truck.

SHAPIRO: What have investigators found inside the truck?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, often in these kinds of cases, when ISIS is involved, they find small ISIS flags in the car or near the suspects. In this case, as far as we know, they haven't found anything like that. In the cab of the truck there was a semiautomatic handgun. There was some ammunition and, strangely - and they haven't explained this yet - two assault rifle replicas - fake - fake assault rifles.

Apparently his cell phone was on the seat and so were some papers. But investigators wouldn't provide any details about what those papers were. What's striking, though, is that there wasn't anything that appears to link this to ISIS. Often these attackers will have these, as I said, small black flags on themselves, but not this time.

SHAPIRO: And what are the biggest questions that investigators want to answer next?

TEMPLE-RASTON: The real questions are about Mohamed Bouhlel's mental - mental state. He was either divorcing or was divorced. He was shooting at police through the windshield. He had a kind of road - road rage incident earlier this year. So they're looking at his mental stability as well as some sort of jihadist connection.

SHAPIRO: All right, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, thanks very much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.