“The terrorist action took place in 4 minutes and 17 seconds”. A former investigator of the anti-terrorism subdirectory (SDAT) of the judicial police detailed on Wednesday 7 September before the special assize court the investigations carried out after the attack on the ram truck, in Nice, on 14 July 2016.
Eight people are tried in Paris, including three “members of the entourage” by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. This 31-year-old Tunisian was shot dead by the police behind the wheel of the heavy truck in which he pushed through the crowds massed on the Promenade des Anglais after the fireworks.
Ramzi Arefa, Chokri Chafroud and Mohamed Ghraieb are prosecuted for terrorist conspiracy. Everyone disputes the facts with which they are accused. Five other defendants, including one targeted by an arrest warrant, are brought to court for conspiracy and offenses against weapons legislation, without the qualification of terrorist.
“Unconventional crime scene”
Recalling the frightening toll of 86 mowed victims, 318 physically injured and hundreds of traumatized, the investigator identified at the hearing as “Sdat 005” first described the work of the findings on a crime scene. “extraordinary”, extended over 1,800 meters of public road.
“The perimeter has been squared into sixteen areas”. In the first it is “the truck riddled with 61 bullet holes”, immobilized in front of the Mediterranean Palace. The heavyweight, which hit a “large number of people” from “Street furniture”, of the “bicycles”, etc., “stalled, the clutch hydraulic feed lines broke.”
A real gun and dummy weapons
In particular, the police will find in the cabin “A switched on phone, the lorry rental contract and a pocket containing the driver’s card, two bank cards”.
They also recovered a 7.65 mm semi-automatic pistol with which the terrorist shot the police, who responded by killing him. In addition to the dummy weapons: “imitations of assault rifles and magazines, defensive grenades”, etc
Many messages and photos
The attacker is immediately identified: “This is therefore Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a delivery boy-driver installed in Nice since the end of 2007”, father on the verge of divorce and known to the services only for acts of violence and theft.
“The exploitation of his phone has made it possible to discover many elements useful for the investigation”, specifies the investigator “Sdat 005”. In particular “July 14 audio messages converted into written messages”. Of which “the one at 22:27”, shortly before the attack, in which he asks Ramzi Arefa for weapons and points to them “Chokri and his friends are ready for next month” and I’m a “Walid”, the nickname of Mohamed Ghraieb.
Investigators also found several other messages on this laptop, as well as photos of Ghraieb and Chafroud. Elements that will soon put the police on the trail of the suspects. “Everyone will try to minimize their relationship first” with the aggressor. He also explains “not understanding the meaning of SMS” sent by Lahouaiej-Bouhlel.
Recent interest in radical Islam
At the home of the perpetrator, often described “violent” And “disturbed”, the police still discover a phone, photos, an SD card and a computer containing messages related to the theme of terrorism. elements that “highlighted the recent interest in radical Islam” of Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, still described by his relatives ” unbeliever “ And “non-practicing”. Also confirming, according to the investigator Sdat, who also evokes various testimonies, a “Recent radicalization”.
He further detailed the terrorist’s journey and his relations with Mohamed Ghraieb, Chokri Chafroud, who are both “got into the truck before the attack”. As well as with Ramzi Arefa, who has it “admitted to having been the intermediary for the supply of a gun”. This was shown by the analysis of the interviewees’ phone calls and social network accounts “Many exchanges”.
In one of them, he notes, he looked like Ghraieb, for example “welcome to the attacks of January 2015” targeting the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman from Montrouge and the Hyper Cacher. Chokri Chafroud also sent an ambiguous Facebook message to Lahouaiej-Bouhlel in April 2016: “Load the truck, put 2,000 tons of iron in it and fuck it, cut the brakes my friend and I’ll watch.” He justifies himself by claiming to have “say so” in conversation while he “Drank”.
A meticulously prepared act
Investigations showed how Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who left many traces behind him, had carefully prepared his act. He photographed on January 1, 2016 a press article entitled “He voluntarily rushes to the terrace of a restaurant”. He did too “several steps to rent a truck, under the pretext of a move”. And up to “eleven locations by truck, and others by bicycle or on foot, between 11 and 14 July” to make sure you can hoist it on the pedestrian part of the Promenade des Anglais.
The investigator “Sdat 005” also specified all the investigations to identify the people suspected of having participated in the traffic that allowed the attacker to have a gun on the evening of the events. His hearing will continue on Thursday morning, with questions from the special assize court and from all parties.