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Truck Attack In Nice Leaves 84 Dead

At least 84 people have died, including children, after a lorry slammed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern French city of Nice.

The driver ploughed on for 2km (1.2 miles) on the Promenade des Anglais at about 23:00 local time, before being shot dead by police.

Witnesses say the speeding lorry swerved and zigzagged in an apparent attempt to hit more people. Police reportedly found guns and grenades inside the lorry.

President Francois Hollande, who has now arrived in Nice, said the attack was of “an undeniable terrorist nature”.

A state of emergency, in place since November’s Paris attacks carried out by militant from the Islamic State group, in which 130 people died, has been extended by three months.

What Witnesses Saw

“I heard lots of screams and everybody was running in different directions. I didn’t know what was going on, it felt surreal and I didn’t move but thought it must be some kind of practical joke. “Then I saw the truck coming straight at me swerving all over the place. It was perhaps 50 yards away. After that there was no conscious thought, my body took over, time slowed down and I ran and thank God I got out of the way,” said Pouya, from Toronto.

Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice resident, said: “It zigzagged – you had no idea where it was going. My wife… a metre away… she was dead. The lorry ripped through everything… poles, trees. We have never seen anything like it. Some people were hanging on the door and tried to stop it.”

Nader el-Shafei told the BBC he saw the driver face-to-face for about a minute: “He was very nervous… looking for something around him, I kept yelling at him and waving my hands to stop… he picked up his gun and started to shoot police.” Afterwards he said he ran towards the beach with others, fearing the driver, who has then shot by police, would detonate the lorry.

Nice residents and tourists were among those who died in the night-time attack. Two American citizens, a Ukrainian and a Russian are among the 84 victims. About 50 people were also injured, 18 critically.

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, told local media that about 10 children were among those killed. Fondation Lenval, the children’s hospital in Nice, says it has treated some 50 children and adolescents, including two who died during or after surgery, the Associated Press news agency reports.

This is not the first time in recent years that someone has deliberately driven a truck into pedestrians on a French street. But the scale, speed and death toll from this apparent attack are unprecedented. It follows an earlier call by so-called Islamic State (IS) spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani for IS followers to do exactly what this truck driver did. This, and other calls for attacks in Europe, are partly in response to the significant losses being experienced by IS to the shrinking territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.

US-led airstrikes, including by French warplanes, are taking a particularly heavy toll there. At home, France has become the number one target of opportunity for IS and its supporters, unperturbed by the national state of emergency that has just been extended.

No group has so far said it was behind the attack. The identity papers of a 31-year-old French-Tunisian were reportedly found in the truck. He has been named by local media as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, although not by police. He lived in Nice and had been in trouble with the police in the past for petty crime, but he was not on the watch list of radicalised young men.

Mr Hollande addressed the nation in the early hours of Friday saying France had been “badly hit” but was strong, adding “we need to do everything we can to fight against” such attacks. “All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorism,” he said. The president added that “operational reserves” would be deployed to support the army and security forces across the country, with particular focus on the borders.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls later declared three days of national mourning, starting from Saturday, and said the goal of terrorists was to “instil fear and panic”. “But France is a great country and a great democracy that will not allow itself to be destabilised,” he said.

US President Barack Obama condemned “in the strongest terms” what he said appeared to be “a horrific terrorist attack in Nice”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “shocked and saddened by the horrifying attack in Nice”. “If, as we fear, this was a terrorist attack then we must redouble our efforts to defeat these brutal murderers who want to destroy our way of life,” she said.

Nice’s jazz festival has been cancelled and the southern city of Marseille has announced it is cancelling a fireworks show planned to take place on Friday evening. The hashtag #PrayForNice it trending worldwide and in France #NousSommesUnis (we are united) is also trending.

Timeline Of Terror: France’s Deadliest Islamist Attacks

June 2016 – man claiming allegiance to so-called Islamic State kills two police officials in Magnanville, near Paris

November 2015 – multiple attacks on Paris by seven gunmen and suicide bombers kill 130 people and injure more than 350 in the deadliest terror attack in French history

June 2015 – man with suspected links to Islamist radicals decapitates his boss after ramming his car into an area containing flammable liquids at factory in Lyon

January 2015 – three days of attacks by gunmen in Paris leave 17 people dead, starting with an attack on the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and ending in two sieges

March 2012 – a gunman kills seven in Toulouse and Montauban, including a teacher and three children at a Jewish school