The man responsible for mowing down 84 people in Nice planned the attack in advance, and was aided by a tight-knit team of associates, who helped him sketch out his plan, and acquired weapons for him.
He seems to have envisaged and developed his criminal plans several months before carrying them out,” said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, speaking in a news briefing. “The investigation since the night of July 14 has kept moving forward and allowed us not only to confirm again the premeditated nature of [killer] Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s deadly act, but also to establish that he benefited from support and had accomplices in the preparation and carrying out of his criminal act.”
Police have uncovered thousands of calls and messages between Lahouaiej Bouhlel, and five accomplices, after going through his social media accounts, laptop and phone records.
"Put 2,000 tons of metal in the truck, f**k the brakes, and I'll be watching," says one message sent to Lahouaiej Bouhlel in April.
Four men and one woman, aged between 22 and 40. have been arrested. Among the suspects are a Tunisian man (same nationality as the attacker), two French-Tunisians, an Albanian, and a French-Albanian woman.
The five will soon appear before a court, to be read their initial charges. Only one of the suspects has a significant crime record, and none were on a terrorist watch list.
Police findings appear to contradict initial claims that the attacker was a “lone wolf” and was “radicalized” quickly.
Lahouaiej Bouhlel's laptop contained detailed photos of last year's Bastille Day fireworks, saved articles about other terrorist attacks, and mentions of the "magical" drug Captagon, a stimulant popular with militants fighting for Islamic State.
There are pro-jihadist messages between the group dating back at least as far back as January 2015, in which one of the suspects writes,"I'm happy they brought the soldiers of Allah to finish the work," following the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.
In the past year alone, Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had more than 1,270 conversations from his mobile with one of the men.
The accomplices continued to support Lahouaiej Bouhlel up until the day of the attack.
The Albanian couple allegedly helped 31-year-old Lahouaiej Bouhlel acquire the gun he used to shoot at policemen during his fatal drive.
One of the Tunisian men was photographed inside the leased truck, which was used in the attack, on two separate occasions (three days and one day before it happened). DNA belonging to another was located on one of the seats.