Scores still hospitalized after truck attack in Nice, as details emerge on attacker | News | DW | 17.07.2016
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Scores still hospitalized after truck attack in Nice, as details emerge on attacker

France's health minister says 85 people remain in hospital, many in critical condition, after the attack on Thursday night in Nice. Police have detained two more people over the attack, which killed 84 people.

French Health Minister Marisol Touraine told reporters in Nice on Sunday that 18 of the 85 people still hospitalized following the Bastille Day attack were in critical condition, including one child.

She added that although many people had been released, they might still need further medical treatment. Touraine also urged survivors to make use of counseling offered by the government after the attack.

A 31-year-old Tunisian man drove a truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national holiday, killing 84 people and maiming and wounding many others.

Flowers left by the scene of the attack

Flowers left by the scene of the attack

Further detentions

French authorities on Sunday detained two more people - a man and a woman - as they searched for possible accomplices of the truck driver, Mohamed Lahoualez Bouhlel, who was shot dead by police during his rampage. Four people detained previously were said to be still in custody, while Bouhlel's estranged wife was reportedly released after two days of questioning.

Religious connection?

Although the Islamist extremist group "Islamic State" (IS) has claimed reponsibility for the attack, calling Bouhlel one of its "soldiers," it remains unclear to what extent he had links to it or any other Islamist group, or whether the attack had any sort of religious extremist motivation. Police had no record of any connections he had with radical Islam.

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel Aufenthaltserlaubnis

Bouhlel had lived in Nice for years

Some neighbors of Bouhlel, a father of three who was known to police as a petty criminal, have described him as a loner who tended toward violence and depression, while people who went to the same gym said he was "conceited" and "would flirt with anything that moved."

But views as to his religiosity differ, with some family and friends saying he smoked and drank - two activities forbidden in strict Islam - and never went to the mosque. But others noted "a recent swing to radical Islam, " according to police sources.

Interior Minister Bernhard Cazeneuve has indicated, however, that he believes the attack was indeed motivated by radical Islam, calling the massacre "a new kind of attack" that underlined "the extreme difficulty of the anti-terrorism fight."

"We are now confronted with individuals open to IS' message to engage in extremely violent actions without necesarily having been trained or having the weapons to carry out a mass attack," he said.

Security failings?

His remarks come as French authorities come under renewed criticism for failing to protect citizens, with Thursday's rampage the third major terrorist attack in 18 months.

Frankreich Nizza Hausdurchsuchung Polizei bei Amokfahrer Bouhlel

Police searched Bouhlel's apartment for clues

Cazeneuve called for volunteers to boost security forces who have been on high alert under an eight-month state of emergency.

An official from the City Hall authorities in Nice, however, said "a concrete wall" would have been needed to stop the truck, which forced its way onto the footpath and pushed down all metal barriers in its way and past police cars. He then drove into the crowds at 90 kilometers per hour (55 mph). Bouhlel was shot dead just 45 seconds after his rampage began.

France has come into the sights of IS as one of the countries taking part in fighting the group in Iraq and Syria. The rise of Islamist terrorism has also highlighted what the government has admitted is a "social and ethnic apartheid" alienating its large Muslim community.

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