Police arrest three in Nice as Islamic State claims truck attack

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Islamic State claims responsibility for Nice attack

NICE, France, July 16 (Reuters) - Islamic State claimed responsibility for the truck attack in the French city of Nice on Saturday and police arrested three more people there after the carnage that claimed the lives of at least 84 people.

"The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State," the news agency Amaq, which supports the militant Islamist group, said via its Telegram account.

"He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State," the statement said.

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Vigils around the world for the Nice attack victims
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016, to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
Members of the Australian French community place candles during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Members of the Australian French community cry as they sing the French national anthem during a vigil in central Sydney, Australia, July 15, 2016 to remember the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. REUTERS/David Gray
BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 15: French ambassador to Thailand Gilles Garachonk (4th R) joins a vigil to remember the victims of the attack in the French city of Nice at the Alliance Francaise, on July 15, in Bangkok, Thailand. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police. (Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images)
Indian citizens take part in a candle light vigil for the victims of the Mumbai attacks in New Delhi on December 7, 2008.India accuses the banned Islamist movement Laskhar-e-Taiba of training and equipping the 10 militants who stormed India's financial capital by boat to kill 188 people and leaving more than 300 others injured during the 60-hour orgy of violence that saw two luxury hotels and a number of other sites targeted. AFP PHOTO/ Manpreet ROMANA (Photo credit should read MANPREET ROMANA/AFP/Getty Images)
In the courtyard of the apt. building where killer, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, lived, (LÂR) Kolleen Alldridge, hugs her son, Gavyn Alldridge, 4, while apartment complex manager, Alice Thompson, huddles close to her friend during a candle light vigil where neighbors are trying to come to terms with the shooting, in Killeen, Texas November 07, 09. THe neighbors all said what a nice person Mr Hasan was. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A boy lays a candles to form a heart around a bag reading 'Nice Olympic Swimming' during a candlelight vigil for swimming gold medallist Camille Muffat on March 10, 2015 her hometown, the southeastern French city of Nice, after she died along with nine other people in a helicopter crash in Argentina while filming a reality TV show. France was plunged into mourning on March 10 after three well-known sports stars, including the Olympic champion swimmer and one of the world's best sailors, died when two helicopters filming the survival series 'Dropped' smashed into each other in the rugged mountains of La Rioja province, local officials said. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A hand holds a candle and a French flag above the crowd during a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day attack, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
People stand around a circle of candles during a moment of silence at a vigil to honor victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice, France, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
A young woman wipes her face as people honor victims of the Bastille Day attack with a moment of silence during a vigil, in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 15, 2016. World leaders are expressing dismay, sadness and solidarity with France over the attack carried out by a man who drove truck into crowds of people celebrating France's national day in Nice. AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Indian school children attend a prayer ceremony in memory of victims of a truck attack in France, at a school in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing dozens of people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
Flowers are pictured near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A woman puts flowers near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
People react near the scene where a truck mowed through revelers in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing more than 80 people and sending people fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed waterfront promenade. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A man walks through the gates of the French Embassy in Madrid, Spain, Friday, July 15, 2016, past flowers and tributes left outside. France has been stunned again after a large white truck killed many people after it mowed through a crowd of revellers gathered for a Bastille Day fireworks display in the Riviera city of Nice. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry lay flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / Vasily MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People lay flowers outside the French embassy in Moscow on July 15, 2016 in tribute to the victims of the deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 15 condemned the attack in Nice as an act of 'monstrous evil' in a message to his French counterpart. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A man lays flowers in front of the French embassy in Kiev French the day after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people on July 15, 2016. A Tunisian-born man zigzagged a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing at least 84 and injuring dozens of children in what President Francois Hollande on July 15 called a 'terrorist' attack. / AFP / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
NICE, FRANCE - JULY 15: People visit the scene and lay tributes to the victims of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15, 2016 in Nice, France. A French-Tunisian attacker killed 84 people as he drove a lorry through crowds, gathered to watch a firework display during Bastille Day celebrations. The attacker then opened fire on people in the crowd before being shot dead by police.(Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)
A sand sculpture about the France truck attack looks at the Bay of Bengal Sea's eastern coast beach at Puri, creating by sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik to condemn this terror attack near by 65 km away from the eastern Indian city Bhubaneswar, India, on 15 July 2016. (Photo by Biswaranjan Rout/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A man places flowers in front of the French Embassy in Berlin on July 15, 2016, after the deadly attacks in Nice. A man drove a truck into a crowd watching fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15, 2016: Flowers outside the French Embassy in Moscow commemorating victims of the 2016 terror attack in the French resort city of Nice. On 14 July 2016, a truck ploughed into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. 84 people were killed in the attack. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images)
A girl holds up a placard during a prayer meet to show solidarity with the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A man reacts near bouquets of flowers as people pay tribute near the scene where a truck ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores and injuring more who were celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday, in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
School children offer prayers to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2016. The placard reads, "Tribute to the people killed in the terror attack in France". REUTERS/Amit Dave TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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French authorities and media have yet to produce any evidence that the killer, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was radicalized. The interior ministry said it was checking the claim.

The 31-year old Tunisian, who lived locally, drove at a Bastille Day crowd on the waterfront of the French Riviera city on Thursday night. Authorities had been working to find out what his motives were. He was not known to French intelligence sources for radicalisation.

The arrests, which came on top of two others since the killing including the attacker's wife, concerned his "close entourage," police sources said. They were made in two different areas of Nice.

A Reuters reporter saw about 40 elite police raid a small apartment near the central station, where one individual was arrested.

The attack plunged France into new grief and fear just eight months after gunmen killed 130 people in Paris.

The truck zig-zagged along the seafront Promenade des Anglais for two kilometers as a fireworks display marking the French national day ended.

It was eventually stopped when police shot dead the driver.

The attack is the third of its kind in France since the beginning of 2015. A state of emergency in place since 130 people were killed in and around Paris last November is to be extended for another three months.

Bouhlel was known to police for petty crimes but was not on a watch list of suspected militants. He had one criminal conviction for road rage, having been sentenced to probation three months ago for throwing a wooden pallet at another driver.

Ahead of the claim by Islamic State, the militant Islamist group which grabbed control of swathes of Iraq and Syria but which is now under military pressure from forces opposed to it, French officials had not disclosed any direct evidence linking Bouhlel with jihadism.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, asked on Friday if he could confirm the attacker's motives were linked to jihadism, said: "No... We have an individual who was not known to intelligence services."

Relatives and neighbors in Bouhlel's hometown of Msaken outside the coast city of Sousse said he was sporty and had shown no sign of being radicalized, including when he last returned for the wedding of a sister four years ago.

CHEAP CLAIM

Edwin Bakker, Professor at the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, said the claim did not necessarily point to any formal link.

"Islamic State called for such (individual) attacks to be carried out back in 2014. They are also using the public perception that an attack like this seems to fit Islamic State. Investigators still have not discovered a direct link between Islamic State and the attacker, so it is a cheap claim," he said.

In Nice, where the holiday season would normally be in full swing, organizers of the annual Jazz festival joined the singer Rihanna in canceling their event. A five-day annual festival that has run since 1948 had been due to start on Saturday.

NISSA MA BELLE

Tearful well-wishers were still laying flowers, candles, teddy bears and drawings at a makeshift memorial on the Promenade des Anglais.

"Nothing will ever be like before...Nissa ma belle" read one, a reference to the hymn 'Nissa la Bella', or Nice the Beautiful, sung in the local Nicois dialect.

"Enough of the carnage. Stop the massacre," read another.

Tora Hakausson, from Norway owns a flat in Nice, and was dining in a beach restaurant when the attack took place.

"We don't want to go home. Life has to remain normal. I don't want this to change how we feel about France," she said as she wiped away a tear from under her sunglasses.

"Anger is the main emotion today," said Maiche Arlette, a resident of the city. "For two and a half years now we have suffered from these attacks..."Our society has gone mad."

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Michel Bernouin, Johnny Cotton and Sophie Sassard in Nice, Robert-Jan Bartunek in Paris, Writing by Michel Rose and Andrew Callus; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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