Five suspects, including a woman, have been charged Thursday in connection to the truck attack during Bastille Day in southern France last week. The suspects are accused of assisting Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel to prepare the terror attack that claimed lives of 84 people in Nice.
Three of the accused — Franco-Tunisians Ramzi A and Mohamed Oualid G, and a Tunisian named Chokri C — were charged of acting as accomplices in “murder by a group with terror links,” according to the prosecutor’s office. The other two, an Albanian couple with names Artan and Enkeldja faced charges of “breaking the law on weapons in relation to a terrorist group.”
According to French prosecutor Francois Molins, one of the suspects arrived at the scene of the attack the next day to shoot the aftershock of the incident.
Bouhlel, who mowed down the crowd celebrating Bastille Day, was given logistical support from the five suspect to prepare the fatal attack, Molins said. The truck attack was planned for several months.
“The investigation underway since the night of July 14 has progressed and not only confirmed the murderous premeditated nature of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel's act, but has also established that he benefitted from support and accomplices,” Molins said Thursday.
Bouhlel was also reported to have taken a photo in May, last year of a brief about the drug Captagon, which Molins said was “used by some jihadists responsible for attacks.”
“It appears... that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel planned and developed his criminal project for several months before taking action,” Molins added.
In April, 37-year-old Chokri, sent a Facebook message to Bouhlel that read: “Load the truck with 2,000 tonnes of iron... release the brakes my friend and I will watch.”
During investigation, a text message in Bouhlel’s phone from Mohamed Oualid G on Jan. 10, 2015 – after the Charlie Hebdo attack — read: “I am not Charlie .... I am happy they have brought soldiers of Allah to finish the job.”
Following the truck attack, ISIS had issued a statement saying that Bouhlel was one of the “soldiers of Islam” and he “carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State.”
However, some experts are of the opinion that that ISIS’ claim does not necessarily establish a direct link between the attack and Islamic extremism.