84 dead in lorry attack in France
By Eric Maurice
At least 84 people were killed on Thursday evening (14 July) when a lorry ran into a crowd in Nice in southern France, in what looks like a terrorist attack.
The assault took place on Bastille Day, France's national holiday.
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A white lorry drove at high speed on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice's seafront avenue, just before 11PM. The avenue had been closed to traffic and was packed with people who had just watched the Bastille Day fireworks.
The lorry drove for about 2 kilometres through the crowd before police shot and killed the driver.
Witnesses told French media that they saw "people fly like skittles" and that the lorry drove in zig-zag pattern "to hit as many people as possible".
The attack killed at least 84 people, including children. About 100 people were injured and 18 of them were in a state of "absolute emergency" on Friday morning.
Identity papers belonging to a 31-year old Franco-Tunisian man were found in the lorry, which had been rented a few days ago. The man was known to police for petty crimes, but had not been linked to terrorism. Police are still trying to determine whether the driver was the man depicted in the ID.
According to a former Nice mayor, heavy weapons were found in the lorry and the driver also shot several times at the crowd. This was not yet confirmed by police on Friday morning.
"The terrorist nature of this attack cannot be denied," French president Francois Hollande said in a TV address during the night.
"France was struck on the day of its national holiday, the 14th of July, a symbol of freedom, because human rights are denied by fanatics and because France is inevitably their target," he said.
"All France is under threat of Islamic terrorism," he said.
Hollande decided to extend a state of emergency for three months, to maintain a high level of security measures, with 10,000 military personnel deployed around the country, and to recall reservists to help.
The state of emergency had been declared on 13 November last year, during previous terror attacks in Paris and extended twice. Hours before the Nice attack, Hollande had announced it would stop on 26 July.
The attack had not been claimed on Friday morning and Hollande did not say who might be responsible. But he said that France would "strengthen" its military operations in Syria and Iraq, where the Islamic State jihadist group is based.
"We will continue to strike in their hideout those who attack us," he said.
US president Barack Obama condemned "what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack".
European Council president Donald Tusk said it was a "tragic paradox that the subject of this attack were people celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity" and that "Europe stands united with the French people and their government.".
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he was afflicted by the ”cowardly attack" and that Europe's determination in the fight against terrorism would be "as firm as our unity".