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After Bastille Day Rampage, Investigators Turn Up Details On Attacker


Let's work through now what happened last night in Nice, France, as best we know now. And remember, we're in the phase when new facts emerge or completely change. We've been talking all morning about these attacks. More than 80 people were killed. At 10:45 p.m. last night, we're told, a man was driving what's described as a refrigerated lorry, a refrigerator truck, toward a crowd by the beach. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is going to help us pick up the story from there. She's been looking into this and talking with investigators.

Dina, as best we know, who was this man? What was he doing?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, we heard some detail this morning from French prosecutor Francois Molins, and he's just giving us the beginning of all of this. He said they're working to identify the victims in last night's attack. There were 30 - sorry - 84 people killed, 10 of whom were children, and 202 people were injured. And he said that 52 of those people were in a critical state.

He said that this refrigerated lorry went onto the Promenade Anglais - des Anglais, and ran for about two kilometers, and this person in this truck hit many of the spectators who had been gathered there. He fired several times on three police officers as they gave chase to the lorry, and it went about another three hundred meters and then stopped. The suspect was shot, and he was found dead in the front seat.

INSKEEP: OK. So we're learning a few new details here. There were questions about exactly who had opened fire, whether the man in the truck had opened fire. And now prosecutors do believe he in fact did fire several shots with the weapons that he had on board as that truck was moving, right?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. They were unsure whether this was fireworks or shots. It appears they were shots.

INSKEEP: What kind of gun did he have?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Investigators found a 7.65 mm caliber handgun in the cab of the truck. They found ammunition. And we'd reported this earlier - he - there were fake guns there, two replica assault rifles that the French prosecutor described as sort of looking like Kalashnikovs and an M-16. There was also a pierced grenade. We're not quite sure what that is. That's what he called it. But, some sort of real grenade. And a cell phone that investigators are looking at now.

INSKEEP: Although, the real weapon here was the truck itself. Now, this raises a question. Was this man working alone?

TEMPLE-RASTON: They are not saying that he was or wasn't. They are saying that they have been able to pick up him by himself picking up the truck on the outskirts of Nice, and they saw him ride up - this is a security camera, this footage was caught. They saw him ride up on a bicycle and get into the lorry. And then they actually have the security footage that sort of tracks him all the way to the Promenade des Anglais.

And so, so far, it looks like it's just him, although they said they are looking for accomplices.

INSKEEP: Was it his truck?

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's unclear. I've heard from my sources - both a French source and two U.S. sources - that it was a rented truck. But as a profession, he was a delivery driver. He was also known to police, the prosecutor said. He had a record for violence, for burglary and in fact had a - was - had a suspended prison sentence for six months. What was important, though, is that he was unknown to intelligence services. So he'd never been - this is the prosecutor saying this - that he'd never been the subject of any kind of file or indication of radicalization.

INSKEEP: A couple of other details - his name is Mohamed Bouhlel. We're told he was born on the third of July, 1985. So he was 31 years old at the time of his death. He was born in Tunisia.

What facts there or anywhere tell you anything about him that feels meaningful?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, he was born in Tunisia. We understand that he was actually a French citizen living in Nice. They used fingerprints to confirm his identity. He's married. He's the head of a family, and his wife has been detained as of 11:00 a.m. this morning.

INSKEEP: He has a family then?

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's what we understand, yes. But again, a lot of this is preliminary. We're only getting the sketchiest of details from the French prosecutor as the investigation continues.

INSKEEP: And - in a couple of seconds - there's still no clear link to any larger group, like ISIS?


INSKEEP: OK. Dina, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston who's been following the investigation by French and other authorities into last night's attack in Nice, France. We're told that 84 people - at least 84 people were killed when the man drove a truck through large crowds celebrating Bastille Day by the beach. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.