Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was a Tunisian resident of France who, on Bastille Day 2016 (July 14), carried out a truck-ramming attack in Nice, France, killing 86 people and injuring more than 400 others. He was shot and killed by French police after ramming into and running over civilians for more than one mile along the Promenade des Anglais beachfront esplanade.James McAuley and Griff Witte, “Assailant in truck attack had record of petty violence and crime,” Washington Post, July 15, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/assailant-in-truck-attack-identified-in-french-media-as-a-31-year-old-french-tunisian/2016/07/15/c38b9812-6eed-4dff-be9b-da224cf1acb2_story.html?utm_term=.622b7d0acda5. Two days later, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency, referring to Lahouaiej-Bouhlel as “one of the soldiers of Islamic State.”Sam Jones, Angelique Chrisafis, and Caroline Davies, “Nice truck attack: Islamic State claims responsibility,” Guardian (London), July 16, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/16/islamic-state-claims-responsibility-for-nice-truck-attack. In subsequent investigations, police discovered ISIS-related propaganda on Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s personal computer.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763. Prior to the attack, however, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was not known to French intelligence services as a person with ties to ISIS or as someone who posed a terrorist threat, according to French prosecutors.Euan McKirdy, “Nice attack: Ties to ISIS not yet established, official says,” CNN, July 21, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/18/europe/nice-france-attack/.

Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was born in M’saken, Tunisia, six miles from Sousse, where ISIS operatives launched an attack on June 26, 2015, killing 28 people. In 2005, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel moved to the coastal French city of Nice, working as a delivery man, but was soon fired after falling asleep while driving. In or around 2006, he married his French-Tunisian cousin and had three children with her.Vivienne Walt, “Was the Nice Attacker Really a Jihadist?” Time, July 16, 2016, http://time.com/4409306/france-nice-attack-terrorist/. Over the course of their decade-long marriage, his wife reported him to the police for several incidents of domestic abuse, including against his mother-in-law, and the couple separated.Emma-Kate Symons, “Nice attack: Wife of killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel faces ‘mob justice’,” New York Times, July 21, 2016, http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/07/21/nice-attack-wife-of-killer-mohamed-lahouaiej-bouhlel-faces-mob-justice/. In January 2009, Lahouaeiej-Bouhlel received a 10-year French residency permit but soon became involved in a series of petty criminal incidents, including violence and theft.Steve Visser and Alanne Orjoux, “Who was Mohamed Lahouaeij Bouhlel?” CNN, July 17, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/15/europe/nice-france-terrorist-driver/;
Emma-Kate Symons, “Nice attack: Wife of killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel faces ‘mob justice,’” New York Times, July 21, 2016, http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/07/21/nice-attack-wife-of-killer-mohamed-lahouaiej-bouhlel-faces-mob-justice/.
In March 2016, Lahouaeiej-Bouhlel was charged with assault with a weapon for an incident that occurred in January.James McAuley and Griff Witte, “Assailant in truck attack had record of petty violence and crime,” Washington Post, July 15, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/assailant-in-truck-attack-identified-in-french-media-as-a-31-year-old-french-tunisian/2016/07/15/c38b9812-6eed-4dff-be9b-da224cf1acb2_story.html?utm_term=.622b7d0acda5. He was given a six-month sentence, which was suspended. He and his wife were in the middle of divorce proceedings when Lahouaeiej-Bouhlel carried out the attack.Steve Visser and Alanne Orjoux, “Who was Mohamed Lahouaeij Bouhlel?” CNN, July 17, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/15/europe/nice-france-terrorist-driver/.

For most of his life, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel led a secular existence devoid of religious influences or restrictions. He reportedly used drugs recreationally, drank alcohol, engaged in gay sex, ignored Muslim dietary restrictions, and did not pray.Vivienne Walt, “Was the Nice Attacker Really a Jihadist?” Time, July 16, 2016, http://time.com/4409306/france-nice-attack-terrorist/. Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was also interested in martial arts, weightlifting, violent online content, and salsa dancing.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763.

Lahouaiej-Bouhlel is believed to have self-radicalized over the Internet directly before the Nice attack. In the two weeks leading up to the attack, he searched nearly daily for verses from the Quran, nasheeds (jihadist propaganda chants), and details about jihadist incidents around the world, including in Orlando, Florida, Dallas, Texas, and Magnanville, France.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763. Police investigators later found photos of dead bodies and ISIS-linked propaganda images, including the ISIS flag, as well as photos of Osama bin-Laden and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, on his personal computer.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763.

In preparation for the Nice attack, on July 4, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel arranged to rent a Renault Midlum 19-ton refrigeration truck and collected it one week later from a vehicle rental company in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, west of Nice.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763. On July 7, Lahouaiej-Bouhlel stopped shaving and told his friends that he was growing out his facial hair for religious reasons. He also showed his friends an ISIS beheading video on his cellphone and said he was not shocked by the content because he was “used to it.”“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763. On July 12 and July 13, the two days before the attack, he reconnoitered the Promenade des Anglais area in the truck that he then used to massacre 86 people, including 10 children.“Attack on Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel?” BBC News, August 19, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36801763.

On July 17, 2016, al-Qaeda’s Inspire published a special release on the attack. Without mentioning ISIS, al-Qaeda lauded the attack as an “Inghimaasi (plunging deep into enemy lines) operation,” and described Lahouaiej-Bouhlel as a “[hero] of Lone Jihad.” With regard to the specific target—the Promenade des Anglais—al-Qaeda wrote that “this was not randomly selected. He chose a place where there were huge crowds of people existed [sic].”“Inspire Guide: Nice Operation,” Al-Malahem Media, July 17, 2016, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/al-qacc84_idah-in-the-arabian-peninsula-e2809cinspire-guide-2-nice-operatione2809d.pdf.

 
Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

View Archive

CEP on Twitter