Attack took place right after a fireworks celebration
NICE, FRANCE – The killing of 84 people celebrating Bastille Day is the worst attack on France since the now famous November 13th attacks 2015.<
According to multiple news outlets about 50 remain in hospital “between life and death”, French President Francois Hollande says. While the French government is treating the event as a terrorist attack there has not yet been group has said it carried out the attack.
The terror began a little after 10:30 pm local time on Thursday, shortly after thousands of people had watched a firework display on the seafront in Nice, at the end of a day marking France’s national holiday, Bastille Day.
There had been a mood of celebration and the crowd had enjoyed an Air Force display. Families strolled along the city’s renowned Promenade des Anglais.
A large white lorry was seen driving erratically a couple of streets away from the seafront promenade. “He was speeding up, braking, speeding up again and braking again. We thought it was weird,” said Laicia Baroi. She described how the lorry then turned on to the promenade heading south-west towards the airport.
But it was not for another half hour before the attack began. A German journalist saw events unfold from a hotel balcony, as the lorry doubled back from the direction of the airport, breaching the barriers erected on the promenade opposite the Lenval children’s hospital.
When two police officers opened fire on the truck, the driver accelerated and careered at full speed towards the crowd. The vehicle mounted the kerb then went back on the road, zigzagging for up to 1.25 miles, as the driver deliberately drove into people.
A local MP spoke of hundreds of people being run over. Others scrambled to safety, on to the beach or into nearby hotels.
“I was opposite the Palais de la Mediterranee [hotel] when I saw a lorry at high speed running over people. I saw it with my own eyes, people tried to stop it,” said one witness.
Police finally managed to bring the lorry to a halt near the luxury hotel.
The driver opened fire on them as well as on people in the crowd, according to local reports.
Police surrounded the lorry and fired back. Mobile phone footage appeared to show the moment the driver was shot.
The driver has been identified as a 31-year-old man of Franco-Tunisian origin, from identity papers found inside the lorry.
He was named locally as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Police are yet to confirm the details, but searched Bouhlel’s first-floor flat close to Nice train station.
The attacker was said to have hired the lorry from a rental company in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, a town to the west of Nice two days earlier.
They also found fake guns and a grenade inside the truck, however, Bouhlel was armed with a pistol. It was not initially clear if he was acting alone.
Among the 84 who died was Fatima Charrihi, whose son said she was the first to lose her life. “All I can say is she wore a veil and practised Islam in the proper way. A real Islam, not the terrorists’ version,” he said.
Another victim, according to reports, was the assistant head of the Nice border police, Jean-Marc Leclerc.
In the area around Nice, the anti-terror alert was raised to its highest level.
President Francois Hollande was flown back to Paris from a visit to Avignon, joining Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a crisis room. Mr Valls declared three days of mourning starting on Saturday.
The pair then travelled to Nice, where the interior and health ministers were already involved in crisis meetings with local officials.
The video used in this story is from the English language France 24 network, one of Europe’s best.