Tunisian kills 84 in Nice truck attack

July 15, 2016 | By | Reply More

July  15, – At least 10 children and teenagers were among the dead, mown down as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel ploughed his lorry through the festive crowd of thousands watching a fireworks display for France’s national day.

Tunisian kills 84 in Nice truck attackFrench authorities Friday identified a Tunisian man as the driver of a truck that smashed into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, killing at least 84 people, an attack that plunged the country again into grief and anger.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said the 31-year-old Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was “completely unknown” to the intelligence services but that the attack was “exactly in line with” calls from jihadist groups to kill.

As France was left reeling from its third major attack within 18 months, President Francois Hollande warned that the toll could rise further, with more than 50 people fighting for their lives.

The attack left a scene of carnage on Nice’s famous Promenade des Anglais, with mangled bodies strewn over the palm tree-lined walkway.

AFP reporter Robert Holloway witnessed the white truck driving at speed into the crowd, causing “absolute chaos”.

“It was hurtling towards us and we had just enough time to yell at each other ‘get out of the way!’,” he said.

One witness said a motorcyclist tried to stop the rampage by drawing level with the truck and attempting to open the door of its cab before he fell and ended up under its wheels.

Dramatic video footage showed police surrounding the heavily damaged truck and firing through the windscreen to kill the attacker.

The massacre again prompted questions as to why France is such a persistent target for such attacks and what can be done to prevent such a unsophisticated assault.

Hollande’s political opponents were already asking questions as to how such a tragedy could strike France again, with French presidential contender Alain Juppe saying it could have been avoided if “all measures” had been taken.

– Many foreigners dead –

Hollande said many foreigners were among the dead and injured in what he described as a “terrorist attack.”

“France was struck on its national day… the symbol of freedom,” Hollande said in a sombre televised address.

Two US citizens, a Ukrainian and a Russian woman were killed, their countries said.

Hollande said France would observe three days of national mourning from Saturday, Paris city hall said the Eiffel Tower will be lit in France’s national colours on Friday in tribute to the victims.

A shellshocked France found itself in mourning again after attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015 and the shootings and suicide bombings in Paris last November left a total of 147 dead.

The country has been in a state of emergency since November with heightened security, but the Nice carnage showed how vulnerable it remains to an attack by what appeared to be a determined individual.

– Driver a ‘loner’ –

Investigators were building up a picture of the attacker as a petty criminal but who had no known terrorist links.

Neighbours described the man, who was born in Sousse in Tunisia and lived in a modest district of Nice, as a loner who never responded to their greetings.

Another neighbour said he was a “good-looking man” and she was suspicious of the way he eyed her daughters.

Molins said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel had been armed and had fired “several times at three police officers” before he was shot dead.

He had hired the truck on Monday. Photographs after the carnage showed its front badly damaged and riddled with bullet holes.

Molins said a fake pistol, fake rifles and a dummy grenade were found in the vehicle.

His ex-wife was arrested and taken for questioning, a police source said.

The extent of the injuries became clear when a hospital official said around 50 children were being treated at a paediatric hospital close to the scene of the attack. Some were “hanging between life and death”.

“There are French among the victims and also many foreigners from every continent and many children, young children,” Hollande said after visiting a hospital.

The State Department said two American citizens were among the dead. A Texas-based newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, named the victims as 51-year-old Sean Copeland and his 11-year-old son Brodie.

– ‘It was horrific’ –

A German freelance journalist who witnessed the attack said he saw a man on a motorbike chase the truck.

“The motorcyclist attempted to overtake the truck and even tried to open the driver’s door, but he fell and ended up under the wheels of the truck,” Richard Gutjahr, 42, told AFP on Friday.

“Then the driver stepped on the accelerator and the truck sped up, accelerated and drove in a zig-zag course into the crowd.”

The condition of the motorcyclist was unknown.

In a Facebook video, witness Tarubi Wahid Mosta recounted the horror on the promenade.

“I almost stepped on a corpse, it was horrible. It looked like a battlefield,” he said.

– Third terror strike –

World leaders rushed to condemn the bloodshed, with US President Barack Obama blasting “what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack” and the UN Security Council held a minute’s silence.

In his sombre address Friday, Hollande said France would “step up” military action against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

“We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil,” he said.

IS has repeatedly singled out France as a prime target for its military action against the group in Iraq and Syria, and hundreds of jihadists have left France to fight in its ranks.

Press journalist for HRO media – Ignacio Damigo reports.

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Category: European Crises

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