At least 84 dead in France truck attack

Published July 15, 2016
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016.— AFP
Police officers stand near a van, with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016.— AFP
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday.—Reuters
French police forces and forensic officers stand next to a truck July 15, 2016 that ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday.—Reuters
Police officers, firefighters and rescue workers are seen at the site of an attack on July 15, 2016— AFP or licensors
Police officers, firefighters and rescue workers are seen at the site of an attack on July 15, 2016— AFP or licensors

NICE: At least 84 people were killed, including 10 children, when a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display in Nice for Bastille Day, says France's interior minister.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says 80 people have died in the truck attack on the seaside avenue of Nice, and 18 people are in critical condition.

The additional four deaths were apparently from the 18 people who were seriously injured when a truck slammed into the crowds. Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said extra medical-legal police were being sent to Nice to speed the identification process so bodies can be returned to families

Numerous others have been wounded, he said after traveling to the scene.

"The identification of the criminal is in progress," he said, refusing to confirm reports that an ID card was found after police shot the truck driver dead.

"We are in a war with terrorists who want to strike us at any price and in a very violent way," the minister said.

President Francois Hollande says he will call a defence council meeting Friday that brings together defence, interior and other key ministers, before heading to Nice.

Besides ensuring continuation of the state of emergency and the Sentinel operation that puts 10,000 soldiers on patrol, he said he was calling up reserve to help police, particularly at French borders.

Guns and other weapons were found in the truck. “There were guns in this vehicle and larger weapons, but I can't say more than that because that is the prosecutor's job," said Christian Estrosi, president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region where Nice is located.

The government said the driver of the truck was shot dead after barreling down the palm-lined Promenade des Anglais, sending hundreds fleeing in terror and leaving the area strewn with bodies.

“An individual drove a truck into the crowd. He was killed by police,” said interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet.

Authorities said they found identity papers belonging to a 31-year-old French-Tunisian citizen in the truck.

A photograph showed the front of the truck riddled with bullet holes and badly damaged, with burst tyres.

While the incident has not been claimed by any group, prosecutors said the probe would be handled by anti-terrorist investigators.

Earlier a lawmaker for the Alpes-Maritime region, Eric Ciotti, said at least 75 people had been killed and another 15 were in a “critical” condition. Scores of people were injured in the “attack”.

Hours after the attack, dozens of bodies lay on the ground covered in white sheets.

The bloodshed comes eight months after the militant Islamic State (IS) attacks on Paris nightspots left 130 people dead.

France has repeatedly been singled out as a prime target of the group, and has been under a state of emergency ever since, boosting security across the country.

The apparent assault came just hours after France announced that a state of emergency declared after last November's attacks would come to an end later this month.

The incident comes after a day of revelry as France celebrated its national day, Bastille Day, which began with military pomp and ceremony as its armed forces, tanks and fighter jets swooped down the Champs-Elysees avenue.

The holiday typically ends with spectacular fireworks over the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as well as cities around the country.

However celebrations were quickly overshadowed.

Images on television showed the Promenade Des Anglais sealed off, crawling with police and ambulances and authorities from the local Alpes-Maritimes prefecture urged residents to stay indoors.

“The driver of a van appears to have killed dozens. Stay in your homes for now. More info to follow,” said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi.

A large section of the city, extremely popular with sun-seeking tourists, was cordoned off.

French President Francois Hollande rushed back from the southern city of Avignon for crisis talks, his office said. The office further said that he would preside over a meeting of the country's defence and security chiefs on Friday.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve meanwhile headed straight to Nice.

US President Barack Obama condemned “what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack”, although no group had claimed responsibility for the incident.

The incident comes as France was breathing a sigh of relief after successfully hosting the month-long Euro 2016 football championship, which passed off without incident.

No hostage-taking after France truck 'attack'

The French government denied there was a hostage-taking incident after a truck ploughed into a crowd.

“There is no hostage-taking,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told AFP, denying dozens of rumours following the incident.

“Investigations are currently under way to establish if the individual acted alone or if he had accomplices who might have fled,” Brandet said.

Anti-terrorism investigators have taken over the probe, prosecutors said.

Screams, flying debris

An AFP reporter had to shield his face from the flying debris as he watched a truck plough at full-speed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

“It was absolute chaos,” said the AFP correspondent, who was among the crowd gathered to watch the fireworks for France's national day on the beachfront Promenade des Anglais.

“We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around,” he said.

“I had to protect my face from flying debris.”

The correspondent described the moment that the large white truck plunged into crowds of people who had come to the bustling Mediterranean beachfront to celebrate.

Terrified people screamed and scattered as it veered down the promenade, where adults and children were walking towards the famous Negresco Hotel.

“For a big truck like that to get actually onto the promenade and then to go in a fairly straight line along there, looked to me like a very deliberate act,” the reporter said.

“It was about 100 metres from me and I had a few seconds to get out of the way.” Other witnesses described hearing gunfire, although this was not immediately confirmed by the authorities.

Police could be seen surrounding the truck in the early hours of Friday, its windscreen riddled with bullet holes, under the lights of the Negresco Hotel.

Australian Emily Watkins said she was less than 50 metres away from the incident and saw the truck on the promenade but did not realise what was happening.

“There was a lot of confusion. I don't actually remember seeing the truck moving,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“There was a lot of screams coming from ahead of us where the truck was, and people just running towards us and without really knowing what was going on we turned and ran as well."

As we were running away we could hear what I thought at the time were more flares or fireworks.

“People were tripping over and trying to get into hotel lobbies and restaurants or car parks or anywhere they could to get away from the street.”

Earlier in the evening, as the crowds enjoyed the fireworks, lightning had flashed in the skies above the Riviera resort.

Muslim, Gulf leaders condemn Nice attack

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government and people of Pakistan were deeply saddened by the attack.

In a statement Friday he said “our hearts and prayers are with the victims of the attack and their families.“

“Being the frontline state in the war against terror, Pakistan itself has suffered immensely and has seen a series of tragedies,” he said.

Leading Muslim clerics joined Gulf Arab leaders on Friday in condemning a truck attack that killed at least 84 revellers in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on France's national holiday.

Egypt's top Muslim cleric Shawki Allam condemned the assailant as an “extremist” who “follows in the footsteps of the devil.”

“Islam never called for the spilling of blood,” Allam said in a statement.

“People who commit such ugly crimes are corrupt of the earth, and follow in the footsteps of Satan... and are cursed in this life and in the hereafter.” The six Gulf Arab states issued a joint statement saying that they “strongly” condemned the “terrorist” act in Nice.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council states stand in solidarity with the French republic following this cowardly criminal incident whose perpetrators have been stripped of all moral and human values,” the bloc's secretary general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said.

Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia issued its own statement condemning the “heinous terrorist” act, adding that it stands in “solidarity” with France and will “cooperate with it in confronting terrorist acts in all their forms.”

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: “This heinous terrorist crime makes it imperative for all to work decisively and without hesitation to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.” Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of a US-led coalition which has carried out an air war against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria alongside France.

World leaders' horror at Nice attack

Politicians from around the world have reacted with horror after a truck smashed into a crowd in the French resort of Nice, killing at least 84 as they watched a Bastille Day fireworks display.

Following are the main reactions:

  • US President Barack Obama condemned what he said appeared to be a “horrific terrorist attack”.

    “We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack,” he said in a statement.

    “On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world.”

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had been in Paris earlier in the day for a Bastille Day parade, said: “The United States will continue to stand firmly with the French people during this time of tragedy. We will provide whatever support is needed.”

  • Germany “stands alongside France in the fight against terrorism,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that “words can barely express” what France's allies felt.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter: “Canadians are shocked by tonight's attack in Nice. Our sympathy is with the victims, and our solidarity with the French people.”

  • A spokesman for new British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack “a terrible incident”, adding “we are shocked and concerned”.

  • Boris Johnson, whose first engagement as Britain's new foreign secretary was at the French ambassador's Bastille Day party in London, said on Twitter: “Shocked and saddened by the appalling events in Nice, and the terrible loss of life.”

  • New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that he was “sickened by news of another senseless attack”.

  • European Council President Donald Tusk called it “a sad day for France, for Europe”. He said it was “tragic” that “the subjects of the attack were people celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity.”

  • Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ─ whose own country suffered deadly suicide bombings at Istanbul's airport two weeks ago ─ condemned the “cowardly terrorist attack that has bloodied Nice on this national celebration day”.

  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang offered his “condolences” to the victims and said China opposed all forms of terrorism.

  • The United Nations Security Council called the attack “barbaric and cowardly”.

  • Latin American leaders also condemned the carnage, with Brazilian interim president Michel Temer declaring: “Today, more than ever, we are all French.” Ecuador's President Rafael Correa added that he was sending France “a hug” after “a tragedy caused by insanity”.

  • The Vatican said in a statement that it “condemned in the strongest possible terms” the bloodshed in Nice.

  • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy evoked “the pain of all good people, who are potential victims of barbarism, folly and the greatest contempt for human life”.

  • The Kremlin said Russia was “in solidarity with the people of France during these difficult days. “

Opinion

Editorial

Spy games
Updated 02 Oct, 2022

Spy games

The audios leaked so far appear to have been carefully curated: they apply pressure but do not do major damage.
‘Geopolitical football’
02 Oct, 2022

‘Geopolitical football’

THE US-China rivalry is by all measures one of the globe’s most dangerous competitions for power and influence. ...
Fuel price reduction
02 Oct, 2022

Fuel price reduction

ISHAQ Dar is back; so are his signature policies. The reduction of a little over 5pc in fuel prices announced by him...
Untruths and politics
Updated 01 Oct, 2022

Untruths and politics

It would arguably be in the national interest for the Supreme Court to take up the cipher and settle the matter.
Farmers’ protest
01 Oct, 2022

Farmers’ protest

SEVERAL hundred farmers have converged on Islamabad for the last three days to protest against the soaring costs of...
Dasht-i-Barchi bombing
01 Oct, 2022

Dasht-i-Barchi bombing

ON Friday morning, Kabul’s Dasht-i-Barchi neighbourhood was rocked by a terrorist attack targeting an educational...