Since the Friday morning terror attack that stole at least 84 lives in Nice, France, investigators have learned that the murderer had started attending a mosque in April, stopped drinking alcohol, grew a beard for religious purposes and sent over £84,000 to family in Tunisia.
These reports surface via a neighbor and suspects in the custody of French police as the French Interior Minister indicated it appears he was “radicalised.”
French prosecutor François Molins revealed on Monday that Nice, France terrorist Mohamed Bouhlel had recently begun growing a beard, citing apparent religious motivation, and “in just the two weeks before the attacks — searched ‘on a near-daily basis’ for information on suras, or chapters of the Quran; on nasheeds, or chants, that have been used by jihadist groups like the Islamic State; on Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan; and on attacks in Orlando, Dallas and Magnanville, France, where an Islamic State militant killed a police captain and his companion last month,” according to the New York Times.
Investigators uncovered very violent images on Bouhlel’s computer including, “corpses; fighters brandishing the Islamic State’s flag; covers of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the target of a January 2015 attack in Paris that killed 12 people; Osama bin Laden; and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Algerian operative who helped lead Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa,” according to the Times report.
Molins remarked on Bouhlel’s recent “interest in radical jihadists movements,” but said investigators had yet to directly link the terrorist to the Islamic State, according to the Times.
Suspects in custody shortly after the attack told investigators that Bouhlel recently took on radical and virulent behavior and spoke of the Islamic State, according to a Google translated version of the news outlet iTELE. Those in custody also said that he stopped drinking alcohol.
Bouhlel’s 17-year-old sister Chaima Arefa told the Telegraph, “We are Muslim,” while asserting that her drinking, smoking brother who “goes out” was not a terrorist. Family members have attested that he had a history of mental instabilities.
However, the iTELE report cites iTV information on four people associated with Bouhlel in police custody, and indicates that Bouhlel had recently stopped drinking alcohol. Further, the Telegraph reported on an unnamed neighbor of the terrorist’s estranged wife who said, “Mohamed only started visiting a mosque in April.”
The Islamic State claimed credit for the Nice attack on Saturday, calling Bouhlel a “soldier” who had “calls to target nations of coalition states that are fighting (IS).”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview with the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, “The investigation will establish the facts, but we know now that the killer was radicalised very quickly,” according to Sky News.
Then there’s the £84,000. Bouhlel’s brother Jaber Bouhlel told MailOnline that his brother Mohamed had the money illegally smuggled to family in his hometown of Msaken, Tunisia. Brother Jaber added that the family used to receive, “small sums of money regularly like most Tunisians working abroad,” but of this large sum he said, “it was fortune.”
Like their sister, Jaber Bouhlel asserts his brother was not a terrorist. However, like their father, Jaber Bouhlel says he had not seen his brother in several years, that he rarely communicated with the family and that the last visit to Tunisia was in 2012 for their sister’s wedding, he told MailOnline.
A Yahoo News report cites statements from Jaber Bouhlel to Reuters in Tunisia that indicate his brother Mohamed was calling family members in Tunisia frequently in recent weeks. He told Reuters his brother Mohamed spoke of plans to come back to Msaken “soon.” Jaber Bouhlel said that his brother asked about their parents, always talked to him and that the were “very close.” He added that his brother “sent us small sums of money recently, sometimes 300 or 400 ($A437 – $A583), and mobile telephones.”
A tight community of Tunisians from Msaken live in Nice, according to The Guardian, which also reported that more than 40,000 Tunisians have come to live in the coastal town. A 2012 census marked Nice just shy of a population of 350,000. The Guardian reports that “radical recruiters” have set up terror networks through the area, mentioning Omar Omsen. That report did not note that Omsen is a recruiter for the Islamic terror.
Many have given account to the terrorist’s demeanor as a little crazy, depressed, reclusive and violent. Bouhlel’s father has been cited repeatedly as saying his son was not religious; however, reports indicate that the two lost touch years ago.
The father of Orlando Islamic terrorist Omar Mateen similarly claimed that his son’s mass murder of 49 people in a night club last month had “nothing to do with religion” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Six people were still currently in custody as of midday on Tuesday according to the Associated Press.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.