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Before Nice Attack, Intelligence Agencies Had No Information on Perpetrator

Before he launched an attack in Nice, French intelligence agencies had no idea who Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel even was.

NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15:  People lay flowers on La Promenade des Anglais' seafront in tribute to victims of yesterday's attack on July 15, 2016, in Nice France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations yesterday. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Clément Mahoudeau/IP3/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People lay flowers on La Promenade des Anglais' seafront in tribute to victims of yesterday's attack on July 15, 2016, in Nice France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations yesterday. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Clément Mahoudeau/IP3/Getty Images)

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man who intentionally drove a tractor-trailer into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in the southern French city of Nice and then opened fire on the crowd as he continued to plow down civilians, was entirely unknown to intelligence services before he launched the attack.

Speaking at a press conference in France on Friday, Paris Prosecutor François Molins said the death toll had risen to 84 people and that another 52 are critically injured, with 25 of them were still in intensive care as of Friday morning. Ten of those killed were children, including one 11-year-old boy from Texas.

According to Molins, Bouhlel was a professional delivery truck driver who parked his vehicle near the site of the Bastille Day celebration in advance and then returned on a bicycle Thursday evening in order to launch the attack.

Bouhlel, who was born in Tunisia but lived in Nice, had a criminal history and was handed a six-month suspended sentence in January over a weapons charge. Despite his history with police, he was on absolutely no French watch list for terrorism or radicalization. He was identified after investigators found his identification and credit cards in the truck and matched his fingerprints to those already on file. His wife, whose name has not yet been released, was detained Friday morning.

Photo credit: Clément Mahoudeau/IP3/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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