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Posted Sat 16 Jul 2016, 3:49am
- Had marital issues with his wife, with whom he had three children
- Not suspected by police as having any extremist links
- Neighbours describe him as a loner with no visible religious affiliation
The man who drove a truck into a crowd of people in the French resort town of Nice, killing more than 80 people as he swerved to hit as many people as possible, suffered from depression but was in no way motivated by religion, according to his father.
On Thursday, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was killed by police after turning a celebratory Bastille Day fireworks display into a scene of horror.
Police have yet to announce a suspected motive, but the Paris prosecutor, Francois Molins, said the attack bore the hallmarks of extremism.
The attacker’s father, Mohamed Mondher Lahouaiej Bouhlel, spoke outside his home in the city of Msa”From 2002 to 2004, he had problems that caused a nervous breakdown,” he said.
“He would become angry and he shouted … He would break anything he saw in front of him.”
He said the family had taken Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel to a doctor who prescribed medication to counter his depression, but described his son as “always alone, always depressed” and not wanting to talk.ken in eastern Tunisia, saying his son had psychological problems.
‘No links to religion’
Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s father said he and his family had almost no contact with his son since he had left for France, but could not say exactly when that was.
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According to others who knew him, he left the city in 2005, last returning for a sister’s wedding in 2012.
The attacker was married to a Franco-Tunisian resident of Nice, with whom he had three children including a baby — but his father said his son was “not on good terms” with his wife
The father insisted the attacker had “had no links to religion” and the family “were also shocked” by what happened in Nice.
“He didn’t pray, he didn’t fast, he drank alcohol and even used drugs,” he told AFP.
Relatives and former neighbours from his Tunisian hometown expressed shock and shame at the actions of a former resident of a community with deep ties to France.
An ex-neighbour who had returned from Nice for a summer vacation and gave his name as Karim, said the attack felt like a “big betrayal”.
“Thousands of people from Msaken live in Nice and make their living there,” he said.
“Is it normal for the country that gives us all that to be paid back in this way on their national holiday?”
Tunisia, a former French colony, has struggled with Islamist extremism over recent years.
But both French and Tunisian officials said Lahouaiej Bouhlel was not someone suspected by either country as having been radicalised.
However, the 31-year-old was known to French police because of a history of threats, violence, and theft.
Ibrahim Bouhlel, a nephew, said his uncle never had money problems, and had told relatives days ago that he was planning a trip back to Tunisia for a family party.
Neighbours describe quiet man with no overt religious links
As forensic experts searched Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s flat, residents who shared the apartment block with him described him as a loner with no visible religious affiliation.
They said he was a solitary figure who rarely spoke and did not return greetings when their paths crossed in the four-storey block, located in a working-class neighbourhood of Nice
One neighbour said she had concerns about him, describing him as “a good-looking man who kept giving my two daughters the eye”.
“He was greying, a handsome man, about 30 to 35-years-old,” she said.
“He made you feel frightened, not in his looks, but in the way he looked at you.”
The Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said the attack was “probably linked to radical Islam in one way or another”, echoing President Francois Hollande’s declaration the attack was of “an undeniable terrorist nature.”
But Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve cautioned it was too early to confirm any links to extremism.
“Investigations are currently underway to establish if the individual acted alone or if he had accomplices who might have fled,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.