The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has claimed on social media that one of its “soldiers” carried out the truck attack in Nice, France, that left 84 dead and more than 200 injured.
The July 16 statement was reported by a news service that is affiliated with IS.
The statement said the July 14 attack came “in response to call to target nations of coalition states that are fighting [IS].”
Terrorism experts cautioned that the statement did not necessarily point to a formal link between IS and the Nice attack.
Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, drove a heavy truck through a crowd of people marking Bastille Day in the resort city. He was shot dead by police during the incident.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France has no evidence that Bouhlel had ties to IS. He was not previously known to French intelligence agencies.
“It seems that he was radicalized very quickly -- in any case, these are the elements that have come up from the testimony of the people around him,” Cazeneuve told journalists in Paris.
Police said on July 16 that they have detained five people in connection with the incident, including Bouhlel’s estranged wife.
Bouhlel’s father told French television his son was not religious and did not attend any mosque. He said Bouhlel drank alcohol and “even took drugs.”
France has begun a three-day period of national mourning.
President Francois Hollande canceled a planned trip to Central European countries next week in order to oversee the security situation.
Hollande’s spokesman, Sephane Le Foll, said “we must recall the unity and cohesion of this country” in the face of efforts to divide it.
The Nice incident was the third major attack in France in 19 months, a spate that includes the shootings at the office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015 and coordinated attacks around the capital in November 2015.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters