Report: Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel radicalized very quickly

The investigation into the Nice terror attack continues. The headline of CNN’s latest story is that police still have not confirmed any connection between attacker Mohamed Bouhlel and ISIS. What they have found is evidence of radicalization over the internet:

“Those links [to ISIS] , for the moment, have yet to be established by the investigation. So we must still be prudent with what we say on that subject.”

Later, prosecutor François Molins said the attacker searched online for terrorist propaganda in the days before Thursday’s attack, and a search of his personal computer yielded photos of dead bodies and fighters holding the ISIS flag.

“The allegiance to the (ISIS) terrorist organization is not shown, (but) it is the use of his computer (that) illustrates a recent interest … in the radical jihadist movement,” Molins told reporters.

There were multiple reports a couple days ago suggesting that Bouhlel was not a Muslim at all. This NBC story focuses on a friend of Bouhlel’s ex-wife who said he was just an angry man, not a radicalized Muslim:

“He was not Muslim,” a close friend of Bouhlel’s ex-wife told NBC News. “He ate pork, he drank alcohol, he hit his wife. That is not Muslim.”

Walid Hamou said the man that mowed down 84 people on the Nice promenade was no jihadist — just a violent individual with a nasty streak and nothing left to lose…

“He was not Islamic. He was not Muslim,” Hamou stressed, getting agitated. “The guy went crazy… That’s all.”

The report notes that Bouhlel was violent toward his wife and family and claims he hit his children before they were old enough to walk. So let’s stipulate that he was a genuine bastard even before he became a terrorist. Maybe that’s exactly what he found appealing about ISIS, they are as violent and unhinged as he was.

Still, the rapidity of his conversion is striking. This CNN’s story doesn’t say how long exactly but, as Taylor noted yesterday, there are some reports that Bouhlel stopped drinking alcohol for about two weeks prior to the attack. Another CNN report from yesterday says Bouhlel started talking like a jihadist only in the final days before the attack:

A source close to the investigation told CNN that local associates of the Nice attacker detained for questioning have told interrogators that Bouhlel started speaking supportively of ISIS days before the attack. Four of his associates were arrested late Friday and early Saturday in Nice.

Bouhlel’s phone number has since turned up as a contact on the phone of a ISIS recruiter; however, that contact wasn’t seen as significant at the time. But it seems the story comes down to a very rapid shift. Bouhlel went from secular person, who was said to scoff at religion and never went to mosque, to radical jihadist and terrorist in a matter of weeks.

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