Terrorist in truck kills 84 in France on Bastille Day
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 on the Promenade des Anglais. REUTERS photoA Tunisian living in France drove a large truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along Nice’s beachfront, killing at least 84 people, many of them children, according to police and hospital officials. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.
Video shot by bystanders shows the truck coming under police gunfire as it drives through an intersection into the pedestrian promenade. Crowds flee in panic, taking shelter in shops, hotels or leaping off the elevated pavement onto the beach below. Police finally surround the stationary truck and fatally shot its driver.
Police identified the attacker as Mohamed Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Nice resident, and said he had drawn a gun on them. The truck’s front windshield was riddled with bullets.
French President Francois Hollande said July 15 that “many foreigners and young children” were among those killed or injured, with around 50 fighting still for their lives.
German tourist Richard Gutjahr filmed the moment when an unidentified motorcyclist rode alongside the truck and grabbed hold of the driver’s door as two other police officers on foot nearby fired a single shot each at the driver’s windscreen. But the truck accelerated through an intersection into screaming crowds, where Gutjahr could hear the final confrontation involving 15 to 20 seconds of gunfire.
“Police were everywhere in town for the day. They clearly saw he was a danger, because that truck should never have been on the road,” said Gutjahr, who took cover as police started shooting because he feared the truck might contain a bomb.
“France was struck on the day of its national holiday, July 14, the symbol of liberty,” Hollande said, as he denounced “this monstrosity.”
Hollande said it was not clear whether the driver had accomplices. The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for “murder and attempted murder in an organized group linked to a terrorist enterprise.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but French officials called it an undeniable act of terror. The assault on revelers rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of two attacks in Paris last year which killed 130 people and were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Terrorism is a threat that weighs heavily upon France and will continue to weigh for a long time,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after Hollande called an emergency government meeting.
“We are facing a war that terrorism has brought to us. The goal of terrorists is to instill fear and panic. And France is a great country and a great democracy that will not allow itself to be destabilized.”
Meanwhile, Turkish Ambassador to France Hakkı Akil told Hürriyet that as of 1 p.m. there had been no news of any Turkish casualties from the French authorities.
However, Akil also noted that the situation could change at any time, and they remained in close contact with the Turkish Consulate in Marseille.
Broadcast footage showed a scene of horror along Nice’s famous promenade, with broken bodies splayed on the asphalt, some piled near one another, others bleeding onto the roadway or twisted into unnatural shapes.
Meanwhile, many world leaders condemned the attack and said they stood in solidarity with France.
European Council President Donald Tusk said it was a “tragic paradox” that the victims of the attack in Nice were celebrating “liberty, equality and fraternity” - France’s motto - on the country’s national day.
U.S. President Barack Obama said they stood in solidarity and partnership with France, “our oldest ally.”
“On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world,” Obama said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “words can barely express the bond between us and our French friends.”
U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon “stands firmly behind the French government and people as they confront this threat and stresses the need to intensify regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism,” according to a U.N. statement.
“We are shocked and concerned by the scenes there. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this terrible incident on what was a day of national celebration,” said new British Prime Minister Theresa May.