Monday of this week the AP reported that the terrorist who murdered 84 people in Nice, France appeared to have self-radicalized in a matter of weeks. Today, the AP is reporting that Mohamed Bouhlel planned this for months and had help carrying it out:
The Paris prosecutor says the driver who killed 84 people on a Nice beachfront had accomplices and he had been plotting his attack for months.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said his office, which oversees terrorism investigations, said five suspects currently in custody are facing preliminary terrorism charges for their alleged roles in helping driver Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, in a judicial inquiry opened Thursday.
Molins said information from Bouhlel’s phone showed searches and photos that indicated he had been studying an attack since 2015.
The Wall Street Journal has a direct quote from the prosecutor:
“The investigation has not only provided more confirmation of the premeditation of the murderous attack of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, but also establish that he had support and complicity in preparation of his criminal act,” Mr. Molins said.
Among those five people, some are suspected of supplying Lahouaiej Bouhlel with a pistol, which he used to shoot at police while driving a rented truck through crowds of revelers gathered to celebrate France’s national holiday. Police also discovered an arsenal of fake weapons in the back of the truck.
What’s odd is that neither story makes any mention of the previous reports suggesting Bouhlel appeared to behave as a secular person until very, very recently. For instance, there are reports that he drank alcohol and ate pork, something an ISIS supporter would not do. But now the prosecutor says he appears to have been thinking about an attack for at least a year which is long before anyone noticed an outward change in his behavior.
Was Bouhlel pretending to be secular when he was really an ISIS fanatic? Or does this mean he started planning the attack while secular and converted to full-on ISIS supporter just before carrying it out? I guess there’s a third option here which is that the previous reports were all wrong. That seems hard to believe given that the stories about his behavior came from family and people who knew him. Then again, there were all those reports that the Orlando shooter was gay and messaging people on Tinder, which have apparently all turned out to be false.
The only thing that’s certain right now is that the full story does not add up. At some point, Paris prosecutor Molin needs to explain how and when Bouhlel radicalized and what role that played in planning this attack.