Tuesday 27 September 2016

Irish man caught up in Nice terrorist attack 'no longer cause for concern'

Martin Grant

Published 16/07/2016 | 07:01

Floral tributes on the promenade in Nice. AFP/Getty Images
Floral tributes on the promenade in Nice. AFP/Getty Images
Investigators work at the scene where the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed came to rest. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
French soldiers, who are part of ‘Operation Vigipirate’, patrol near the streets near the Galeries Lafayette in Paris yesterday, a day after the attack in Nice in the south of the countryTha

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said there is "no longer cause for concern" in the case of one Irish man, following reports that he had suffered injuries in the Nice terrorist attack.

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Following reports on Friday that indicated the man was in a critical condition, the Department announced this morning that it is satisfied there is no longer concern for that case.

After intensive follow-up, the man who was feared injured is believed to be safe and well.

A statement from The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it is working with the Embassy Paris to review and update their assessment in relation to Irish citizens potentially affected by the Nice attack. 

A man mourns in Nice. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
A man mourns in Nice. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

"More than 60 specific enquiries expressing concern about one or more Irish citizens were received on 14 and 15 July.  The vast majority of those concerned have been accounted for and confirmed as safe and well," it said.

"The Department is continuing to work to establish contact with a small number of individuals with whom contact has not yet been made, but the Department has no reason to believe that any of these have been caught up in the incident.

"Efforts now are focused on making contact with a small number of individuals in order to assure ourselves that they are safe and well."

84 people were killed and 18 people remain critically injured following the attack, which saw a man drive a truck at speed through crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the city promenade.

The driver of the truck, a 31-year-old male named as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, was subsequently shot and killed by police.

Thursday night’s massacre of pedestrians leaving a fireworks display along the Mediterranean city’s famed boulevard ended when police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

Nobody really paid much attention to the white, refrigerated lorry as it approached the Promenade des Anglais.

The unmarked truck had, according to reports, had even been stopped by police who had asked the driver what he was doing there.

Investigators work at the scene where the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed came to rest. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Investigators work at the scene where the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed came to rest. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Forensic officers remove one of the many bodies from the scene. AFP/Getty Images

PANIC

Lahouaiej Bouhlel told the officers he was delivering ice-cream and would be moving on soon.

What in fact he was about to deliver was murder on a massive scale.

Video shot by witnesses showed the truck coming under police gunfire as it drove through an intersection along the palm-lined Promenade des Anglais, which had been cleared of traffic for the independence day celebrations.

Crowds fled in panic, taking shelter in shops or hotels or leaping off the elevated pavement on to the beach below.

Police identified the attacker as a 31-year-old Nice resident and delivery driver, and said he had drawn a gun on them. The truck’s front windscreen was riddled with bullets, with Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s body slumped inside.

Chief prosecutor Francois Molins said police risked their own lives trying to stop the truck as it travelled two kilometres along the promenade.

He said the killer’s estranged wife was arrested in Nice yesterday, while Lahouaiej Bouhlel himself narrowly avoided being put behind bars months before the attack.

He said Lahouaiej Bouhlel had received a six-month prison sentence in March for assault with a weapon, but other legal officials said his sentence was suspended because it was his first conviction.

The weapon used was a plank of wood against another driver after a traffic accident.

Witnesses said Lahouaiej Bouhlel first crashed into crowds near the five-star Hotel Negresco, then rolled slowly down an otherwise empty road chased by police on foot and, possibly, one on a motorcycle.

President Michael D Higgins led the Irish tributes, expressing his condolences to the people of Nice. Mr Higgins confirmed he had spoken to French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault, and had asked that the sympathies of the Irish people be passed to President Francois Hollande.

“A cowardly attack in a public place on a national day of celebration must be condemned in the strongest terms,” he said.

resolve

“We must strengthen our resolve not to let such cold-blooded attacks undermine the way of life in our global community seeking to live in diversity and peace. All of the thoughts of those who value freedom are with the people of France.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was horrified by the attacks and expressed sympathies on the behalf of the Government.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened at this horrific attack in Nice. Once again, innocent people have been targeted at an occasion of joy and celebration,” he said.

“French people have suffered appallingly and have again been the victims of cynical and wanton violence. We cannot and will not yield to this malevolence.”

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described the attacks as an “unspeakably evil outrage”.

She added: “Whatever its motivation, it seems clear that its intent was to kill, wound and terrorise ordinary people enjoying the freedoms we cherish so much.

“This is yet another time of great anguish for the people of France. All who cherish democracy will stand with them in the knowledge that our values will ultimately prevail in the face of such savagery.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin described the attacks as a “horrendous and callous attack on people’s freedom as they celebrated Bastille Day”.

“It is shocking that the people of France have yet again been visited by such horrific tragedy. We must all stand together in total condemnation of this tragedy,” he said.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said terrorist attacks are an attack on our democracy.

“There is only one way to fight attacks on democracy and that is to reinforce democracy and uncompromisingly affirm our commitment to democracy,” he said.

“Democracy involves respect for rights and values of each person and for the rule of law.

“Where the quality of democracy is weakened, the door is opened to those who use their own ideology or power to render us all weaker and less protected.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but French officials called it an undeniable act of terror.

The assault on revellers rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of two attacks in Paris last year that killed 147 people and were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

“France was struck on the day of its national holiday, July 14, the symbol of liberty,” French president Francois Hollande said as he denounced “this monstrosity”.

Flags were lowered to half-mast in Nice, Paris, Brussels and many European capitals.

Mr Hollande announced a three-month extension to the state of emergency imposed after the deadly November 13 attacks on Paris, and the government declared three days of national mourning to begin today.

“Terrorism is a threat that weighs heavily upon France and will continue to weigh for a long time,” French prime minister Manuel Valls said.

“We are facing a war that terrorism has brought to us. The goal of terrorists is to instil fear and panic. France is a great country, and a great democracy, that will not allow itself to be destabilised.”

Mr Hollande faced public anger after traveling to Nice to offer his condolences. He visited injured people in two hospitals, including one where officials had treated about 50 children and teenagers.

Mr Molins said 52 of the 202 people injured remained in critical condition last night, 25 of them on life-support.

Herald

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