Attack on Nice | Truck rampage rattles an already unsettled France

Published: Jul. 14, 2016 at 6:17 PM EDT
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Monday, July 18, 2016

PARIS (AP) — The Bastille Day truck attack in Nice may have shaken France's collective psyche, further unnerving a country already traumatized by extremist attacks that have become alarmingly more frequent. Yet there is hope that the French, while shaken, will not be defeated.

Despite being under a heightened state of emergency, French security forces failed to stop Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel from barging past police vehicles at the entrance to Nice's famed Riviera beachfront, where the zig-zagging truck he was driving instantly transformed a crowd of families and fun-seekers into utter tragedy.

"The fact that this attack occurred when security measures were supposedly in place makes this very different from previous attacks," said Neil Greenberg, a professor of military mental health at King's College London. "That undermines the trust people have in the government to stop these events and it is extraordinarily hard to rebuild that trust once it's lost."

Greenberg said he expected to see a dip in the numbers of French people willing to venture into public places that might now be considered risky. He noted that past attacks on Paris — including the January 2015 shootings at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the coordinated November strikes that killed 130 people — seemed more targeted, and thus avoidable, compared with the random group of Nice residents and tourists engulfed in chaos late Thursday night.

"Nice is known as the place where people go to the beach," Greenberg said. "The attack there may have more of an impact than the Paris attacks because people may now be thinking, 'where can I go to relax and be safe?'" He said that the pattern of repeated attacks could eventually prompt people to change their behavior, if they fear the government is unable to protect them.

Still, Greenberg said the only people likely to develop significant mental health problems after such events are those already suffering from psychiatric illnesses, and that while some people might experience some short-term anxiety or stress, it was unlikely there would be a significant spike in mental health disorders among the general population. Past studies show that most people who witness traumatic events recover on their own and that attempts by mental health professionals to offer counseling in the immediate aftermath of the events could actually worsen their prognosis, he said.

Other experts warned it's critical that the French government's reaction to the latest attack doesn't further fragment the country.

"There are concerns about whether the Muslim community will be used as a scapegoat, which could increase alienation and ultimately drive more recruitment into the radicals' cause," said Andrew Silke, director of terrorism studies at the University of East London. He said that countries with a history of repeated terror attacks — like Northern Ireland and Israel — have reacted to such violence with surprising resilience.

"What you see is that people pull together and communities become more bonded against the attacks," he said, predicting that the same phenomenon could happen in France. Silke said the sporadic nature of these attacks means that they can still unsettle France's national psyche, but that the more often they happen, the less impact they will have.

"The most disruptive attacks are those that come out of the blue, like Sept. 11," Silke said, adding that France is unfortunately becoming more accustomed to extremist attacks on its soil.

Given its long and fractious history marked by bloody rebellions, revolutions and religious divides, some experts said the latest string of attacks will pose little threat to France's ability to heal.

"France has been at the heart of two world wars and they've kept on ticking just fine," said Frank Farley, a past president of the American Psychological Association. "The French people don't get knocked down that easily."

For Italian retiree Piera Badino, canceling a planned trip to Nice because of the truck rampage was out of the question.

"I did not think of not coming," Badino said. "We cannot stay closed at home. Otherwise what are we, half dead? So we can never stop."

Friday, July 15, 2016

NICE, France (AP) — The Latest on attack that killed 84 people in Nice (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

The seaside promenade in the French city of Nice where a man killed at least 84 people when he drove a truck through a crowd is still shut.

Street cleaners are still at work, and there are about a dozen bouquets of flowers placed by a police cordon.

One resident, Robert Canon, a lawyer in his 60s, said that he had witnessed the aftermath of the attack.

Canon said that "there were bodies all over the place. Too many. I couldn't bear to stay and watch. I saw children's pushchairs and toys too. It was horrible."

He said that normally the promenade and the beach would be full of tourists. On Friday evening it as almost empty.

Canon ventured that "maybe not tomorrow but in two or three days life will return. It has to."

9:20 p.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the man who drove a truck through crowds of revelers in Nice is a "terrorist linked to radical Islam."

But prosecutors say that Mohamed Laouaij Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in France, wasn't known to intelligence services.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said that Bouhlel was known to police and judicial authorities for matters of threats, violence, theft and damages committed between 2010 and 2016, and was convicted March 24 in Nice criminal court and handed a six-month suspended sentence for violence with a weapon committed in January.

Molins said that "he was on the other hand totally unknown to intelligence services ... and was never placed on a watch list for radicalization."

9:05 p.m.

Tunisia's foreign ministry has condemned the Nice truck attack "with utmost firmness" and announced the creation of crisis group to deal with Tunisians living in the French city.

Tunisia's official TAP news agency quoted the Tunisian Embassy in Paris as saying that three Tunisian citizens had died in the attack.

Algeria's official APS news agency said one of the north African nation's citizens had also been killed.

Police say a Tunisian living in France drove a large truck Thursday night through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the famed promenade in the southern French city. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

8:25 p.m.

Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's pre-eminent institution for religious learning, has denounced the truck attack in Nice that killed at least 84 people.

Chaired by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyab, Al-Azhar's statement on Friday described the attack as "hideous" and stressed that such "terrorist, coward actions are disapproved by the tolerant teachings of Islam."

The statement urged international coordination to combat terrorism, and "rescue the world from its evils."

Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawki Allam also condemned the Nice attack, saying the perpetrators of such attacks "have followed the footsteps of the devil, shed blood, and terrorized" innocent people.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has extended his deepest sympathies to President Francois Hollande and the people of France for "the abhorrent terrorist attack in the French city of Nice."

8:20 p.m.

A spokesman for a San Diego law school with a summer program in Nice says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas left the city about 12 hours before Thursday's truck attack that killed at least 84 people.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law spokesman Edgar Hopida says Thomas was teaching a class as part of the school's summer program in Nice. Hopida says the 68-year-old justice left on a flight Thursday morning.

Hopida says the 50 or so students, faculty and staff in the Nice program are accounted for and safe.

Thomas agreed to participate in the program in place of Justice Antonin Scalia after Scalia's death in February.

7:25 p.m.

President Barack Obama has ordered flags at U.S. government facilities, including embassies and consulates abroad, to be flown at half-staff for the next four days in memory of the victims of the truck attack in Nice, France.

In a presidential proclamation issued by the White House on Friday, Obama ordered the flags to be lowered until sunset on Tuesday.

Obama issued a statement condemning the attack, which killed at least 84 people and wounded more than 200 others, late Thursday and is expected to speak about it at a reception for foreign diplomats at the White House later on Friday.

Obama also has called French President Francois Hollande to offer him condolences on behalf of the American people.

7:15 p.m.

Estonia's Foreign Ministry says that another Estonian national was injured in the Nice truck attack bringing the number to three. It didn't identify any of the victims or give more information.

The ministry said that the Estonian Embassy in Paris is in touch with local authorities to find out more details and try to contact all Estonians known to be in the area. It said that 100 Estonians who were in the region have been reported to be safe and well.

Police say a Tunisian living in France drove a large truck Thursday night through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the famed promenade in the southern French city. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

6:50 p.m.

Switzerland's foreign ministry says two citizens of the Alpine country — a woman and a child — were killed in the truck attack in Nice.

The ministry didn't identify the victims. It said that by late Friday afternoon it had received 48 queries from people concerned that relatives might have been affected, but had been able to contact all but five of those people.

Police say a Tunisian living in France drove a large truck Thursday night through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the famed promenade in the southern French city. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

6:45 p.m.

Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group has condemned the truck attack in France that killed at least 84 people in Nice during Bastille Day celebrations.

Hezbollah said in a statement Friday that a wave of terrorism hitting the world doesn't differentiate between "old or young, white or black and is not targeting a specific religion but humanity."

The group said that "what Western countries are witnessing is a reflection to "terrorism that we are living in our region that has burnt our people."

6:40 p.m.

Different parts of France have planned vigils and rallies in mourning at the scores who lost their lives and defiance against the driver who took them.

Avignon mayor Cecile Helle is calling for a large rally Friday in front of the city hall, with other smaller gatherings and vigils planned the same day and over the weekend in towns such as Poitiers, Creusot and Pau.

President Francois Hollande declared three days of national mourning from Saturday in homage to the victims. Flags were lowered to half-staff in Paris and in Nice Friday as Hollande flew in to visit the injured in Nice's Pasteur Hospital alongside Health Minister Marisol Touraine.

6:25 p.m.

With some people still searching for news of their loved ones after the Nice truck attack, a Facebook site called "SOS Nice" has begun to attract posts from people hoping to be reunited with missing family members.

The site was quickly filling up with photos, appeals and — in some cases — good news.

A 9-year-old and his family "have finally been found!" one recent post said atop a photo of a child sitting in front of a birthday cake.

"More and more people have been found and it's all thanks to you," another post said.

But it's not clear other appeals have been answered.

"No news from Claire who was at the fireworks," one post said. "She's 18 years old. If you find her or if you have information, please contact us. Thanks for sharing as much as possible."

6:15 p.m.

Berlin's mayor and the French ambassador to Germany have led a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the Nice attack in the German capital.

People on Friday laid flowers, toys and candles outside the French Embassy, which is next to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said: "We have come full of sadness and certainly, in many cases, full of anger. But I say as mayor of this open city that, even if it is difficult, even if we are angry, we cannot meet hatred with hatred."

Ambassador Philippe Etienne said: "We are showing our determination not to give in to this blackmail by terrorism, which counts on division and hatred."

A band played the French and German national anthems.

6 p.m.

France's justice minister says that the man who drove a truck through crowds at Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, killing at least 84 people, had a record of petty crime but nothing matching the seriousness of Thursday night's rampage.

Jean-Jacques Urvoas told reporters in Paris that Mohamed Bouhlel "was at the center of several procedures but was sentenced for only one incident" earlier this year.

He said Bouhlel was placed on probation after throwing a wooden pallet at another driver during a confrontation.

The minister said Bouhlel was handed a suspended sentence since he had never been convicted. He was under the obligation of presenting himself at a Nice police station once a week and posting bail. He respected these obligations rigorously."

5:55 p.m.

Brazilian authorities said that the attack in Nice will make them review Olympic security preparations and probably increase the number of checkpoints in Rio de Janeiro at the Aug. 5-21 games.

Speaking on Friday, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told CBN radio that Rio Olympics security protocols will be revised because of the incident that killed at least 84 people in France.

Jungamann regretted that the possible increase of checkpoints will create more restrictions for movement all over the Olympic host city. He didn't detail which other measures could be made.

Brazil's government top military adviser, Sergio Etchegoyen, told journalists in the capital of Brasilia that the country's security authorities will meet later today to find possible gaps in preparations that could lead to an attack like the one in Nice.

5:45 p.m.

A Scottish couple has been reported as missing after the attacks in Nice.

Family members said Friday they have been unable to locate 27-year-old Carole Annie Cowan and 30-year-old Ross Cowan after the attack. The couple was on holiday in Nice at the time.

Carole Annie Cowan's sister Amy Stanton said she has asked Britain's Foreign Office for help. She has also posted an urgent appeal for aid on Facebook.

British officials say a small number of Britons were injured, but haven't provided details. Foreign Official officials say they are working urgently with French authorities to get more information.

5:15 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor says 202 people were wounded in the Nice truck attack, with 25 of them on life support amid the 52 in critical condition overall.

Prosecutor Francois Molins says Friday that the death toll still stood at 84 people.

Police say a Tunisian living in France drove a large truck Thursday night through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the famed promenade in the southern French city. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

5:10 p.m.

Authorities in Berlin say that two students and a teacher from a high school in the city were killed in the truck attack in Nice.

Reinhard Naumann, the mayor of Berlin's Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district, said he was "deeply dismayed" by the death of the students and teacher from the Paula Fuerst School. The victims weren't identified.

5:05 p.m.

The Eiffel Tower will be lit red-white-and-blue Friday evening in honor of the Nice attack victims, according to the monument's managers.

One of the world's most recognizable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower is routinely lit up in various colors in solidarity with victims of extremist violence across the world.

At least 84 people were killed in Thursday night's truck attack in Nice.

5 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande and Provence Alpes d'Azur regional president Christian Estrosi were booed by an assembled crowd as their convoy drove through Nice following the French leader's televised address.

Christelle Hespel says that she's disgusted by both men — saying they'd failed to protect her city. The 38-year-old said: "Mr. Estrosi is from the right. Mr. Hollande from the left. I say it and I say it loud, these two are killers."

Hollande's government, whose popularity has hit record lows, has recently been buffeted by allegations that France's intelligence services have failed to get a handle on the country's jihadi threat.

4:55 p.m.

Interpol is sending a response team to the French city of Nice to help identify victims and aid in the investigation into the truck attack that left at least 84 people dead.

According to the international police organization, the team will include anti-terrorism specialists.

4:50 p.m.

An Egyptian tourist who filmed police shooting the truck driver who mowed people down in Nice says he saw the attacker firing back through a window.

Nader El Shafei says the truck ground to halt right in front of him after "smashing a girl" and leaving a trail of bodies on the Promenade des Anglais.

He told The Associated Press in an interview: "I kept waving to him, 'Stop, stop! There are people under your truck.'"

He said the driver pulled out a gun when police closed in on the halted truck.

El Shafei said "the police started shooting. I saw the gun in his hand and I saw him shooting through the window."

Video he filmed showed that several dozen shots were fired.

4:40 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have interrupted their talks in Moscow in order to come to the French Embassy, lay flowers and leave messages in a book of condolences after the truck attack in Nice.

The two foreign policy chiefs arrived to the embassy late Friday afternoon with two bouquets: Lavrov carried red roses, Kerry white roses. They both left notes in the book of condolences before heading back to a Foreign Ministry mansion for a news conference that was scheduled to start three hours earlier.

Moscow residents have been leaving flowers and candles at the French Embassy since late Thursday when at least 84 people were killed in the Nice attack.

4:15 p.m.

France's deadly truck attack underlined how attackers are turning to an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons in attacks that are becoming harder to predict or prevent.

Europe is no stranger to attacks involving vehicles, but Thursday's attack that killed 84 people represented one of the highest death tolls in recent history. Unlike attacks that have involved explosive-laden vehicles, the sheer weight and speed of the truck on the busy promenade appeared to have caused the high number of deaths.

Matthew Henman, managing editor at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, commented: "Using vehicles in attacks is a fairly well-established tactic with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group."

4 p.m.

German tourist Richard Gutjahr says he could hear angry shouts outside and see a big white truck rolling slowly down a road supposed to be blocked off as a party zone. He picked up his camera — and captured a key moment in the terrible path of the Nice attack.

Gutjahr's footage, filmed from a first-floor hotel balcony, shows the truck chased by police officers. An unidentified motorcyclist pulls alongside the truck, leaps off his vehicle and clings to the door of the truck in a bid to stop the attacker. The motorcycle is partly crushed under the truck's tires as the motorcyclist, possibly a police officer, clings on and Gutjahr sees two other officers on foot take aim and fire individual shots at the truck's windscreen.

Gutjahr said in a telephone interview: "I thought it could either be a drunk driver or a terror attack, until that incredibly brave man jumped on the truck."

3:40 p.m.

Several neighbors at the address listed for the man identified as the truck driver who killed dozens of people in Nice say said police officers raided the 12th floor apartment earlier Friday — but that the man had not lived there in three years. The apartment was occupied by the man's estranged wife, who was led away by authorities, three of the neighbors said. The apartment showed visible signs of having been forced in,including a hole where the lock had been.

Four young men inside the apartment told The Associated Press they were family of the wife, who they said was divorcing her husband.

The family members and the neighbors refused to identify themselves.

3:25 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the truck attack was done "to satisfy the cruelty of an individual, and maybe a group."

Speaking after visiting the hospital where victims were treated, he also said that France was "facing a struggle which will be long."

3:10 p.m.

Speaking after a visit to a hospital in Nice, French President Francois Hollande said that some 50 people were between life and death following a gruesome truck attack that has already killed 84 people.

Hollande, looking somber and flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, said that "it's to hit France that this individual committed this terrorist act."

3:00 p.m.

Relatives say a father and son from Texas are among the victims of the deadly truck attack in Nice.

Family friend Jess Davis says 51-year-old Sean Copeland and his 11-year-old son Brodie were killed Thursday evening in what French authorities have described as a terror attack.

Davis released a statement Friday on behalf of the Copeland family, saying they are "heartbroken and in shock."

State Department spokesman John Kirby said earlier that two Americans were killed, but didn't identify them citing privacy.

Davis says the Copelands, from Lakeway, were on a European vacation that began in Spain.

2:40 p.m.

Morocco's consulate in Marseille has told The Associated Press that at least 2 Moroccans were among the victims of the attack in Nice.

The consulate said that a woman and her son died in the massacre that killed at least 84 — many of whom had been watching the fireworks on France's Bastille Day.

The consulate did not release names of the victims.

2:35 p.m.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says the pain of the attack in Nice was made worse because so many children were killed and maimed on France's national holiday.

In a Facebook post, Enzi wrote: "We're used to seeing postcards from Nice full of beauty, not images of death with a doll near a destroyed stroller. Reacting is a moral duty."

Italy has told its local prefects and police chiefs to reassess security measures and reinforce "sensitive targets."

2:30 p.m.

An Associated Press reporter says the alert at Nice airport has been lifted, with passengers who had been evacuated being allowed back into the terminal to pick up their bags.

The airport's website showed flights leaving and landing as usual. In a message posted to the site's home page, the airport said: "Despite the dreadful events that occurred, access to the airport and Air traffic won't be disrupted."

2:15 p.m.

Poland's interior minister is blaming the attack in Nice on the values of multiculturalism and political correctness promoted by European Union leaders like foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Mariusz Blaszczak, interior minister in a right-wing government, said: "We must reject political correctness and call things by their true names. Rather than shedding tears like Mogherini and ... organizing marches that solve nothing, authorities should ensure the safety of citizens."

In an interview on Polsat News, he said the attack in Nice is the consequence of many years of "multi-culti policies and political correctness. This is how it ends."

He added: "We don't have such problems. We don't have districts where law other than Polish law reigns. We don't have no-go zones for police." He also praised his party, Law and Justice, for standing firm against accepting migrants.

8:10 a.m.

NICE, France (AP) — Passengers have been ordered out of Nice Airport, an Associated Press reporter at the scene says. She said the terminal building has been sealed off and that military personnel are visible inside.

7:59 a.m.

NICE, France (AP) — Two French officials say the man who carried out the truck attack in Nice was a Tunisian living in the city. The officials, who could not speak publicly about the investigation, confirmed that the ID found in the truck matched the dead attacker.

They said the man was living legally in France. Tunisia is a former French colony.

Friday, July 15, 2016

NICE, France (AP) — France was ravaged by its third attack in two years when a large white truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing at least 84 people as it bore down on the crowd for more than a mile along the Riviera city's famed seaside promenade.

The attack Thursday night on France's national holiday rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of attacks in November in Paris that killed 130 and in January 2015 that killed 17.

Police killed the driver "apparently after an exchange of gunfire," Eric Ciotti, the ranking politician of the Alpes-Maritime department that includes Nice, told BFM television.

The truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of two kilometers (about 1.2 miles), he said, and broadcast footage showed a scene of horror up and down the promenade, with broken bodies splayed out on the asphalt.

Thursday, July 14, 2016 |

UPDATE: 9:07 p.m.

NICE, France (CNN)--CNN is reporting a semi truck drove into a crowd at Bastille Day ceremonies late Thursday in the coastal southern city of Nice, France, killing a least 77 people.

The driver was killed by French police.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NICE, France (AP) — An eyewitness has told The Associated Press that he saw a truck driver slam a vehicle into a crowd of revelers in the French resort city of Nice and then emerge shooting, killing many.

Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native who spoke to the AP near Nice's Promenade du Paillon, said that he saw a truck drive into the crowd and then witnessed the man emerge with a gun and start shooting.

"There was carnage on the road," Bouhlel said. "Bodies everywhere."

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.)