An investigator from the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), testifying by videoconference on condition of anonymity, dissected Thursday before the special Assize Court of Paris this “opportunistic” claim.
At the time, as other investigators pointed out to the court, the jihadist group, “attacked from all sides”, was losing momentum.
But that did not prevent him from calling on his sympathizers to kill “unbelievers”, “especially the nasty and dirty French”, by “all means” by “crushing them with a car” in particular. In this context, the Nice attack came at a good time for the organization.
The first claim, detailed the investigator, was issued by the IS “news agency”, Amaq. In Arabic, then in French, a brief statement evoked a “crushing operation in Nice” by “an IS soldier”.
“It is the highest hierarchy of the EI which is expressed by this means”, points out the investigator.
A little later, the news bulletin of IS radio, Al-Bayan, in turn claimed responsibility for the attack.
In this audio document, broadcast Thursday in the courtroom, we speak of “a soldier of the caliphate” who carried out “a special operation using a heavy weight to crush the citizens of Crusader France”. The name of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel is not mentioned.
– “No explicit allegiance” –
First broadcast in Arabic, the radio statement is then read in French by the jihadist from Seine-Saint-Denis Adrien Guihal, who joined Syria in 2015.
It was the same Adrien Guihal, 37 today, who claimed responsibility for the Magnanville attack on behalf of IS, which claimed the lives of a couple of police officers in June 2016.
A civil party lawyer would like to know if the DGSI was able to question Adrien Guihal, detained since 2018 by Kurdish forces. “No”, replies the investigator, “no legal channel” allows it.
The DGSI agent notes the differences between the “opportunistic” claim of the Nice attack and other claims of the Islamic State group.
Thus, the expression “caliphate soldier” or “IS soldier” is a bit of a “catch-all” term, says the investigator. The claim for the November 13 attacks spoke of the “lions of the caliphate”, a term given by the IS to its seasoned fighters.
“The July 14 massacre ticks all the boxes of the inspired attack, which the Islamic State discovers at the same time as everyone else,” continues the investigator.
Compared to the claims of “planned” attacks (like those of November 13, 2015) or “supported” (like the Hypercacher attack in January of the same year), the claim of the Nice attack does not include any sign of allegiance of its author to the EI.
“There is no explicit allegiance or sign or symbol of rallying to this ideology at the time of its passage to the act”, remarks a defense lawyer.
“He was an assiduous consumer of IS propaganda at the time of the events, so that necessarily played a role”, defends the investigator, while acknowledging that the Tunisian’s fascination with IS is “not necessarily the motivation unique in his gesture”.
“I am well aware of his complex, multi-faceted personality, but among them was his fascination with IS,” he insists.