Five suspects have appeared in a court in France on Thursday, 21 July, charged with being involved in a terrorist operation. The suspects, four men and one woman between the ages of 22 and 40, were reportedly in contact with the attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel and helped him plan the assault.
A 22-year-old Franco-Tunisian Ramzi A, 40-year-old Mohamed Oualid G, and a 37-year-old Tunisian national named Chokri C, were charged with acting as accomplices in "murder by a group with terror links," while the other two, a 38-year-old Albanian man named Artan H and his wife, who is a French-Albanian identified as Enkeldja Z, are charged with "breaking the law on weapons in relation to a terrorist group." All the suspects will be held in custody, AFP reported.
French prosecutor Francois Mollins said that one of the accused returned to the scene of crime the next day to film the aftermath.
Mollins added that Bouhlel planned the attack for many months and received logistical support for the assault from the five suspects. "The investigation since the night of July 14 has kept moving forward and allowed us not only to confirm again the premeditated nature of 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," The Guardian quoted him as saying.
Like Bouhlel, the five detained suspects were unknown to French intelligence and were not on their watch list before the attack, although Ramzi had convictions for small crimes and drugs, the prosecutor added. Bouhlel's phone showed searches and photos that indicated that he was planning an attack since 2015, he said.
France has extended its state of emergency until January 2017. It gives the French police the right to conduct searches and put people under house arrest.
Bouhlel was a resident of Nice and originally hailed from the Tunisian town of Msaken. The terrorist group Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for the massacre and said Bouhlel was one of its "soldiers."