Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people in Nice on Friday, had no links to any terrorist organisation, according to his friends and family
“The police never did anything while her husband beat her up, but now she is under arrest as some kind of a terrorist for something that her husband, someone she hated, had done?” A neighbour of Khalfallah Lahouaiej-Bouhlel expressed her disbelief.
The wife of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the mother of three children by a man who murdered 84 people in Nice, has been under arrest by the police since Friday morning following a raid at her home.
But fellow residents of the block of flats in the northern suburb of Nice say they cannot believe that Mrs Lahuaiej-Bouhlel, a woman who in the past had worked in an international hotel, who did not appear to be a devout Muslim, and did not wear a headscarf, could have been the accomplice of an abusive former partner she was seeking to divorce.
Isis claimed on Saturday that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was a supporter who had acted “in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State”. The organisation, however, habitually claims credit for an array of acts of terrorism and no evidence has so far emerged to show it had links with the 31-year-old delivery driver and chauffeur .
Meanwhile, a day after insisting that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had no terrorist links, the French government said he must indeed have had such links.
Prosecutor Francois Molins had stated on Friday that the killer was “totally unknown to intelligence services...and was never flagged for signs of radicalisation”. But prime minister Manuel Valls said today that he was “in one way or another” linked to Islamists and interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve stated he must have been “radicalised very quickly”.
Five people have been arrested since the killings, three on Saturday and two on Friday including his estranged wife.
But those who knew Mohamed and Khalfallah Lahuaiej-Bouhlel continued to dispute that he was motivated in his violence by religious zeal.
Another neighbour of his wife said: “He, Bouhlel, used to drink heavily and he used to take drugs, he was also a womaniser. All this led to arguments and he would strike his wife, that is why they separated.”
The killer’s father, Monthir Bouhlel, claimed that his son suffered from psychological problems and was sometimes unstable. “He had some difficult times, I took him to a psychiatrist, he took his treatments and he said he had a serious mental illness.
“For four years, from 2002 to 2004 he had problems, he had a nervous breakdown. He would get very angry, and would break things for no reason, he was put on medication. But the one thing he did not get angry about was religion, he did not go to mosque, he drank.”
Lahuaiej-Bouhlel was a petty criminal who has had many brushes with the law. Corentin Delobel, the lawyer who represented him when he received a suspended sentence in March on a charge of assault, said: “I could not say ‘he is a terrorist, he’s an Islamist. He’s radical’. It could have been you or me.”