At least 80 people are dead after a truck plowed on Thursday night into a crowd assembled in the Southern French city of Nice to watch fireworks for July 14, Bastille Day, France's national holiday. The counter-terrorism unit of the Paris prosecutor's office is investigating, which means authorities have enough indications to consider this a terror attack. President François Hollande said the act was "undeniably" a terrorist attack.
The president of the Provence region, Christian Estrosi said the attack is "undoubtedly the worst tragedy in the history of the city." Speaking on BFM TV, he said that a truck driven by an individual, seemingly with premeditation and planning, plowed into crowds and that the man shot at people, according to police officers who "neutralized" him.
The attack, which has not been claimed yet by any terrorist organization, occurred on the Promenade des Anglais seaside boulevard at 10.30pm. France's Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, described the driver as a "terrorist," and said the country was "at war." He also said the total death toll is at 80, with 18 critically wounded and in intensive care.
BFM TV cited police sources which said the identity card of a 31-year-old individual of Tunisian origin was found in the truck. The man was known to police for minor crimes, broadcaster iTELE said, but had no known connections to extremists. The deputy prefect of Nice told BFM TV that he has been shot dead by police; the Interior Ministry confirmed that the man had been "neutralized" and said that it is being ascertained whether he had acted alone.
Estrosi also said that weapons and hand grenades have been found inside the truck.
Gruesome footage circulating on social media showed several bodies strewn on the road, many covered in blood and with twisted limbs.
The city of Nice alerted people on its Twitter account to stay at home, use the hasthag #PortesOuvertesNice (Open doors Nice) to find shelter, and use the Facebook "safe" check to mark themselves as safe:
A French Twitter user posted a video with the caption "Am in Nice, crowd is moving but we do not know why" showing people running in apparent panic.
The scene on the Promenade des Anglais after the attack, with bodies strewn in the road and covered with blankets. Photo by Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Local daily Nice Matin posted on its Twitter feed an image of the truck, saying it had been "riddled with gunfire."
France was attacked twice last year by Muslim extremists, who killed almost 150 people in attacks in and around Paris in November and January.
French authorities had indicated this week that the true mastermind of the November attacks may still be at large.
President François Hollande addressed the nation shortly after 3am local time on Friday, saying that "horror has struck again in France."
He made a direct link between the Nice attack and the terror attacks in and around Paris that bookended 2015. "After Paris, in the month of January, then in the month of November, with Saint-Denis, now Nice is hit too," he said. "It's France as a whole that is under the threat of Islamist terrorism."
Hollande confirmed that 77 people had died in the attack, including several children, and that 20 people were still in intensive care. The president said the incident was "undeniably" a terror attack, and that investigators were still trying to figure out whether the driver had accomplices.
He announced his decision to extend the state of emergency — which he said Thursday, before the attack, would expire on July 26 — by another three months. The president said he would submit a bill to parliament to that effect.
He also said that the 10,000 troops mobilized as part of Operation Sentinel would remain deployed to throughout the country. "Operational reserves" will be mobilized as backup, and will be deployed "wherever we need them," including along the border.
The president added that nothing would weaken the country's resolve to fight terrorism, and reiterated his plan to increase military action in Syria and Iraq. France, he said, would "continue to strike those who strike us at home."
Hollande said that he and Prime Minister Manuel Valls would travel to Nice on Friday to extend their support to the city and its elected officials.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has released a statement about the attack, saying France had "once again been struck by an extremely serious attack." The council described the attack as "heinous and despicable," and urged Muslims to pray for the victims Friday.
President Barack Obama expressed the solidarity of the United States with France after what "appears to be a horrific terrorist attack":