A French-Tunisian man who was wrongly named on Twitter as the perpetrator behind the horrific attack which killed at least 84 people in the French city of Nice on Thursday, 14 July, has said he is too scared to return to his home city. Mohamed Bouhlel, like his namesake Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, is a Tunisian-born Frenchman who lives in the city in the south of the country.
His image was circulated widely on Twitter on the morning after the atrocity, falsely naming him as the man who attacked the city's Bastille Day celebrations, who was killed that night by police in the truck he drove into the crowds of revellers. Someone had taken a screenshot of his Facebook profile picture and added the caption "le visage du monstre" [the face of a monster].
After receiving endless messages on Facebook attacking him, Bouhlel has now written an article for French media pleading to be left alone. He was due to fly back to Nice on Friday following a holiday in Tunisia, but he says the constant threats have left him without "a moment of peace" and too scared to return home.
He said: "I am very afraid of the reception I'll receive from those who overwhelm me death threats and insults, so I have decided to delay my return to my city."
In the piece, he wrote: "The mistake he has created is unsustainable. I am tarnished and my name has been dragged through the mud. Life is also bad for my family in Nice. I am horrified to be associated with a man capable of such a crime."
Bouhlel also tried to explain that his name is a very common one in Tunisia, comparing it with something like "Pierre Dupont" in France. He finished: "I want to go back to France as the honest man that I am. I want my name cleared. I testify today both to refute the claims against me and to ask all those who use social networks to be careful before spreading rumours."