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Tunisian Terrorist Kill 84 Including 2 Americans in Nice, France

After running over 40 people and firing shots into crowd, Police "neutralize" 2 men in cab of truck

 

7/15, 8:10 am PST: The man who used a truck to fatally mow down dozens of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, has been identified by authorities as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel, a French-Tunisian resident of the southern coastal city.

The attack began around 10:45 p.m. Thursday, with Bouhel driving a rented, refrigerated truck, French prosecutor François Molins said Friday. The attacker fired several times at three police officers close to a hotel, and the police responded by chasing the vehicle, which still went on for about 300 meters before the officers shot the driver, Molins said. Bouhel was found dead in the passenger seat, he said. In total during the attack, the truck went for about two kilometers along the promenade and hit many spectators there, Molins said.

A police search of two addresses turned up various phones, IT equipment and documents that investigators are now examining, Molins said.

Ten children or adolescents are among the 84 people killed in Thursday's terror attack in Nice, French prosecutor François Molins said Friday. Another 202 people were injured, including 52 critically. Among the 52 critically injured, 25 are in a coma, Molins said.

Bouhel, 31, was named by a French senior government official and an anti-terrorism official as the man responsible for the attack that killed at least 84 people, including young children.

On Friday, authorities began searching an apartment building where Bouhel apparently lived.

French news agencies said Bouhlel had not been known to intelligence agencies, but had a record for petty crime.

If those reports prove accurate, they would be in line with the profile of the killers in previous major terrorist attacks in France and Belgium over the past two years.

Many had records for violence or petty criminal convictions and while some were on the radar of intelligence services monitoring radical networks, others had been relative unknowns until they struck.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Thursday night attack from the Islamic State or other extremist groups. But Islamic State supporters were celebrating the attack on social media.

Police were reported by French media to be investigating whether the driver had acted alone, or with accomplices.

7/14

Update: A police source says the identity papers of a Tunisian man were found in the truck. there has been chatter on Islamist websites recently specifically mentioning France.

Update;Minutes ago the president of the Nice region, Christian Estrosi, held a press conference. He said:

"This is the worst catastrophe our region has seen in modern history. We now have to mobilise all of our services, all the psychologists, volunteers who are trained to help fellow human beings.

We will work with the imams, priests and rabbis who will also join us to help the victims and families who are suffering and will probably never heal their wounds ... I want to thank people who welcomed passersby and those people who show us tonight that hopefully, solidarity still exists in a world that is too egoistical and individualistic."

He added that a “high figure of the police forces” had been killed during the attack.

7/14 A truck plowed into a large crowd watching the annual Bastille Day fireworks on the promenade in Nice on Thursday night, and a number of people were feared dead. There was no official confirmation of the number of casualties, but witnesses reported hearing gunshots.

CNN reports:

- Nice prosecutor's office to French media: At least 73 killed when a large truck plowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day

- Official: Driver of truck shot dead by police

- U.S. President Barack Obama has been informed about the situation

A Twitter message from Christian Estrosi, the deputy mayor of Nice, said that there might have been "tens of deaths" but he did not provide exact numbers or other details. It was not clear what motivated the driver to veer into int

Officials asked people to stay indoors. Authorities say the man was firing on the crowd as he drove, and that the truck was loaded with arms and grenades.

Conflicting accounts of the deaths and injuries emerged from multiple sources after the episode, with many reporting high numbers of casualties.

The sub-prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department, Sébastien Humbert, told the French network BFMTV: "There are several dozen dead. The total is very high, thirty dead. Maybe 100 wounded. There was a truck that drove into the crowd, over a very long distance. There were shots. The driver was shot. This is on a big scale."

Daphne Burandé, 15, who was at a bar near the beach to watch the fireworks, said: "We were enjoying the celebrations when we suddenly saw people running everywhere and tables being pushed down by the movement of panic."

"No one explained to us what was happening and I heard some gunshots not very far away," she said. "I waited at the bar for more information because I thought it was a false alert. But then, people were still running."

France has been on alert for a terrorist attack for months, and officials have warned repeatedly that another attack is likely. Last November, attacks in and around Paris killed 130 people.

On Twitter, a woman who said her terrace overlooked the promenade where the episode unfolded reported hearing gunfire.

Several witnesses spoke on iTele, a French television station. A man who gave his name as Michel, working at the Voilier Plage restaurant in front of the Promenade des Anglais, said that around 10:30 pm a large white truck drove into a crowd that had gathered near the beach to watch Bastille Day fireworks, apparently killing dozens of people. "A huge number of people started running, then there was a lot of gunfire," he said. The police arrived on the scene and engaged in a shootout with the two occupants of the truck.

Another witness who owns a restaurant nearby, whom iTele did not identify, said that when the truck plowed into the crowd, it "crushed everyone in its path." Then two men got out of the truck "and started shooting into the crowd, about 50 shots," the witness said.

French television showed footage of a panicked crowd running from the scene. On Twitter, witnesses posted grim photos of bodies lying in a pile on the asphalt.

The Prefecture of Police in Nice said that the driver had been neutralized.

The date of the attack — France’s national day of celebration — was seen as symbolic only eight months after 130 people were killed in November’s coordinated Paris attacks on a stadium, bars and a rock-gig at the Bataclan.

Bastille Day, the most important holiday in France and the equivalent to the 4th of July in the US, marks the day a mob stormed a fortress known for holding political prisoners on July 14, 1789.

At the time, France was in economic and political crisis. Taxes were high and food was scarce. There was widespread anger and resentment towards Louis XVI and the increasing militarisation of France.

 

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