French authorities detained two more people Sunday in the investigation into the Bastille Day truck attack on the Mediterranean city of Nice that killed at least 84 people, as authorities try to determine whether the slain attacker was a committed religious extremist or just a very angry man.
A man and a woman were detained Sunday morning in Nice, according to an official with the Paris prosecutor’s office, which oversees national terrorism investigations. The official provided no details on their identities, and said five people detained previously remain in custody. Neighbours told The Associated Press that the attacker’s estranged wife was among them.
Investigators are hunting for possible accomplices to truck driver Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian who had lived in Nice for years. He was killed by police after ramming his truck through crowds on Nice’s famed seafront after a holiday fireworks display Thursday night.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it’s unclear whether Bouhlel had concrete links to the group. The ISIS statement said he was following their calls to target citizens of countries fighting the extremists.
French officials did not dispute the claim but they have not provided concrete evidence of a connection.
Neighbours described the attacker as volatile, prone to drinking and womanizing, and in the process of getting a divorce. His father, in Tunisia, said his son did not pray or fast for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
But he may have had a swift, recent change toward a more extremist worldview. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters Saturday that “it seems he was radicalized very quickly.”
18 victims still in life-threatening condition
Nice’s Promenade des Anglais is gradually reopening and becoming a shrine to the dead, with memorials set up on the westbound lane of the road in spots where victims were felled, some still identifiable by bloodstains. Joggers, bikers and sunbathers populated the pedestrian walkway along the glistening Mediterranean Sea, where well-wishers placed flowers, French flags, stuffed animals and candles.
The site is also becoming a platform for anger at the attacker. Pained and outraged epitaphs are now written in blue maker on stones placed where police shot him dead.
A woman with a potted plant asked if she could put flowers there, unaware of the significance of the spot. A man standing nearby said “Never here.” An argument ensued, with other passers-by saying that his family deserved respect.
“Are you defending him?” the man said, incredulously.
France’s health minister, Marisol Touraine, was visiting Nice on Sunday. Touraine told reporters about 85 people remain hospitalized after the attack and 18 of them are in life-threatening condition — including one child.
She urged any survivors to seek counselling offered by the government.
Many families are angry that they couldn’t find information about missing loved ones, and many are angry at police for not preventing the deadly attack despite France being under a state of emergency imposed after ISIS attacks last year in Paris.
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