France calls up reservist forces after deadly Nice rampage

France calls up reservist forces after deadly Nice rampage

0

Nice (AP/UNB) – France called up thousands of reserve security forces Friday as authorities tried to determine why a Tunisian deliveryman known only to be a petty criminal took the wheel of a 19-ton truck and plunged through a terrified seaside crowd on Bastille Day, leaving 84 people dead and more than 200 wounded.Witnesses described how Mohamed Bouhlel barreled his truck in a zigzag path down a crowded Nice promenade, aiming directly for children, for mothers pushing strollers and for families cowering behind plastic benches.
President Francois Hollande extended for three months a state of emergency that stretched back to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group. It had been set to end July 26.
The government tapped its operational reserve of 25,000 – composed mainly of ex-military or former gendarmes – to relieve its tired officers and bolster border security.
Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais, at the heart of city life – and the killing path of the truck – became a place of grieving with bouquets of flowers piling up as residents, some with candles, paid tribute to the dead.
Hollande said the attack was “undeniably terrorist in nature,” but prosecutors said the 31-year-old driver, a Tunisian who lived in Nice, wasn’t known to intelligence services.
No group claimed responsibility for Thursday night’s slaughter of tourists and locals packing the upscale seafront, where an estimated 30,000 had just watched a Bastille Day fireworks show.
They fanned out to enjoy nighttime street artists, arcade games and food stalls or strolls to their hotels beside the Mediterranean. Then Bouhlel used his truck to turn a celebration into a dash for survival.
Cyril Croisy said he saw the truck accelerate into the first crowds outside Nice’s landmark Negresco Hotel, aiming straight for a stand selling candy to children.
He said he tried to help the wounded, including a woman with catastrophic injuries.
“I was there when her heart stopped,” said Croisy, his eyes welling with tears. The 40-year-old Parisian suffered a broken arm while fleeing and jumping from the Promenade to the beach below.
Ten of the 84 dead were children. Of the 202 injured, 52 were critically hurt.
Among the dead were immigrants and tourists from many nations, including Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland and the United States. Two Scots were among the dozens listed as missing.
French prosecutor Francois Molins said Bouhlel had a loaded handgun, three replica weapons and an empty grenade in the truck, which he had rented three days earlier. Police considered him a petty criminal suspected since 2010 of various threats and acts of theft, vandalism and violent conduct, he said.
In March, he was convicted for a road-rage crime when he struck another motorist with a wooden pallet but received a suspended six-month sentence because it was his first proven offense.
Molins said Bouhlel was “totally unknown to intelligence services … and was never placed on a watch list for radicalization.”

Share.

Comments are closed.