Prosecutor: Attacker in Nice had been planning for months with at least five accomplices

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A man kneels near bouquets near the scene of the attack in Nice, France.
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Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – The Bastille Day attacker who killed at least 84 people in the French Riviera city of Nice had been planning the attack for months with the help of at least five accomplices, the Paris prosecutor said on Thursday.

“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 also established that he benefited from support and complicity,” Francois Molins said at a news conference.

Molins said the five suspects were taken into custody and are facing preliminary terrorism charges, according to The Guardian.

The suspects include an Albanian couple, a Tunisian man and two Franco-Tunisian men. None were previously known to intelligence services.

The suspects will appear in court in Paris on Thursday and could be placed under formal investigation, a judicial source said.

Molins added that information from Bouhlel’s phone, including searches and photos, indicated that he had been planning the attack since November 2015.

One of his alleged accomplices seems to have held radical views even long before that.

After the January 2015 terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Jewish deli, French people expressed solidarity with the slogan “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). One of the men currently under investigation texted Bouhlel: “”I am not Charlie … I am glad, they brought in Allah’s soldiers to finish the job.”

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack and called Bouhlel “one of its soldiers,” but authorities have not yet found evidence that Bouhlel was linked to the group.