The suspected driver of the lorry that sped through a crowd in Nice, killing at least 84 people, has been identified as Tunisian national Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, according to a French prosecutor and Tunisian security sources.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said Bouhlel had been identified by a driver’s licence and bank card left in the lorry. Authorities also found in the truck a fake pistol, an ammunition magazine, a replica M16 rifle, a replica Kalashnikov rifle and a fake grenade.
Bouhlel, who ploughed the lorry into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the French Riviera, had been convicted only once before – for road rage.
While he had several previous run-ins with the law, Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Nice resident born in Tunisia, was not on a watch list of international or French intelligence services.
“And it will be those intelligence services who will face some of the harshest questions. Why were they unable to prevent, yet again, a gruesome attack on innocent lives – the third here in France in just 18 months. For many, it will be seen as the president’s failure,” said Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Nice.
When French President Francois Hollande drove past the site of the attack on Friday, crowds gathered to mourn Thursday evening’s victims reportedly booed.
“He wasn’t on any watch list. He wasn’t under any kind of surveillance,” said Hull.
He was convicted of a felony for the first time in March this year, French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said.
“There was an altercation between him and another driver and he hurled a wooden pallet at the man,” Urvoas told reporters.
As it was his first conviction, Bouhlel was given a suspended sentence and was mandated to contact police once a week, which he did, Urvoas added.
Tunisian security sources told Reuters news agency Bouhlel had last visited his home town of Msaken, about 120km (75 miles) south of Tunis, four years ago.
He was married with three children, but had marital problems, the Tunisian sources said.
He was not known by the Tunisian authorities to hold hard-line views, and had held a French residence permit for the past 10 years without obtaining French nationality, Tunisian sources said.
Neighbours in the residential neighbourhood in northern Nice where Bouhlel lived said he had a stern personality and did not mingle with others.
Investigators have not yet established whether Bouhlel was working alone.
“That will be the central aim at this stage in the investigation… to find out whether the was acting alone, or whether perhaps he was part fo a cell or wider network of people who’ve given him help… and who might be planning, for all anybody knows, a similar sort of attack or to pick up where he left off,” said Hull.