A heavy truck at high speed rammed into a crowd watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice.
His last contact was a phone call last week to mark Eid, his father said.
"My wife's comment to me later... she said it was like a zombie attack".
(ABC NEWS) - The French city of Nice was on lockdown amid fears of a terror attack after a truck drove into a large crowd during Bastille Day celebrations, officials said.
Writing online, Nice Matin journalist Damien Allemand who was at the waterside said the fireworks display had finished and the crowd had got up to leave when they heard a noise and cries.
He was not known to French intelligence sources for radicalization.
Obama, who spoke earlier on Friday with French President Francois Hollande, said he met with French Ambassador Gerard Araud to offer sympathy and help. "They [ISIL] might have claimed the attack but no connection has yet been found between the armed group and the driver", Chater added.
Valls said he was "convinced" that France would win the war against terrorism and radical Islam but warned that the fight would be protracted.
"This was an attack, whose terrorist nature can not be denied", Hollande said.
Although France marked its Fête de la Fédération on July 14 the next year, it wasn't until about 100 years later that the day became a national holiday and it became known worldwide as Bastille Day.
"I would say he was someone who was pleasing to women", said neighbor Hanan, standing in the lobby of the apartment building where Bouhlel lived.
Some 25 bullet holes spattered the windshield of the truck, standing where it stopped and the driver was shot dead.
"Although yesterday's attack has not been claimed, this sort of thing fits in perfectly with calls for murder from such terrorist organisations", he said. He said he watched as the truck was chased by police officers.
The lobby of a nearby luxury hotel was transformed into an emergency treatment center for the shocked and injured, and all hospitals in the Nice area were put on alert to receive the injured.
The Nice incident was the third major attack in France in 19 months, a spate that includes the shootings at the office of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in January 2015 and coordinated attacks around the capital in November 2015.
- From Friday, the Eiffel Tower is again to be lit in France's national colours in tribute to the victims of the attack.