Friday 30 September 2016

Terrorist rampage in Nice leaves 75 dead

At least 75 killed in suspected terror attack; over 100 hurt

Peter Allen

Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30

The scene in Nice after a truck, plowed into crowds gathered for a firework display along the seafront. Photo: AFP/Getty
The scene in Nice after a truck, plowed into crowds gathered for a firework display along the seafront. Photo: AFP/Getty

A truck has crashed into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing at least 60 and injuring over 100.

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Horrific images depicting men and women lying on the side of a road close to the Promenade des Anglais appeared on social media. Videos and photographs also showed thousands fleeing in panic following reports of loud explosions.

The scene in Nice after a truck, plowed into crowds gathered for a firework display along the seafront. Photo: AFP/Getty
The scene in Nice after a truck, plowed into crowds gathered for a firework display along the seafront. Photo: AFP/Getty

Fireworks were filling the night sky as the drama unfolded, as the crowds enjoyed July 14, which is always a bank holiday in France.

The country is still under a State of Emergency following last year's attacks on Paris, when almost 150 people were murdered by Islamic State and Al-Qaeda operatives.

Both groups are well-known for driving vehicles into innocent people, prompting fears that last night's incident could be linked to their activities.

Read more: France attack: Obama condemns 'what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack' in Nice

An injured individual is seen on the ground. Photo: Reuters
An injured individual is seen on the ground. Photo: Reuters

The initial details suggest a tactic that jihadi propaganda has suggested for several years, with a vehicle ploughing into a crowd. For instance, Inspire magazine - affiliated with al-Qaida - urged the tactic several years ago.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the SITE Intel Group said pro-Isil groups were celebrating on online channels and mobilising to threaten France.

Bastille Day, which celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris during the French Revolution of 1789, is the country's biggest public holiday.

Police and ambulances went to the scene and authorities from the local Alpes-Maritimes prefecture urged residents to stay indoors.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Read more: Timeline of recent terrorism in France

A reporter described seeing a white van driving at high speed onto the famed Promenade des Anglais near the Hotel Negresco as people were leaving after the annual Bastille Day celebration display.

"We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around," he said.

The Nice prosecutor's office has been quoted by iTele TV channel as saying 75 people died after the truck drove 2km along the promenade.

A soldier stands guard near the site. Photo: AFP/Getty
A soldier stands guard near the site. Photo: AFP/Getty

"It's total panic," a witness told the BFM TV channel by telephone. "We saw a white lorry which drove directly into people on the Promenade des Anglais. A gunman fired into the crowd before being shot by police. Perhaps they are dead, I'm not sure."

Christian Estrosi, president of the region, says the truck in Nice was loaded with arms and grenades. A spokesman for the Alpes Maritime prefecture advised locals to 'stay indoors'.

Bodies could be seen lying on the ground by the beach, as the police and other emergency services tried to deal with a mass panic.

Fireworks were filling the night sky as the drama unfolded

The manager of Le Voilier Plage restaurant in Nice said: "Just as the fireworks finished we saw a lorry drive onto the pavement.

Police and forensic officers gather around the truck, whose windscreen was was riddled by bullets from police. Photo: Reuters
Police and forensic officers gather around the truck, whose windscreen was was riddled by bullets from police. Photo: Reuters

"There was a massive panic there must have been somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people on the Promenade des Anglais. There was an awful panic, people were running everywhere. We provided a refuge for some people, mothers, children. There were people lying on the ground who were injured or worse.

Pavement

The lorry was seen mounting the pavement and piling into anyone the driver could see, ramming over those who tried to run away.

The area around the Promenade is full of hotels and restaurants, which were all packed at the height of the holiday season.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi, who was at the celebration when it happened, tweeted: "Dear people of Nice, the driver of a truck seems to have left dozens dead. Stay for now in your home. More info to come."

Laura McGarrity and boyfriend Christopher Lismore, from Belfast, fled in terror as panic gripped the Riviera city.

"We were on the beach when it happened - at the most we were 300 metres from the attack," Laura said.

"There were thousands of families at the beach to watch the Bastille day fireworks.

"The firework display had just ended and French families had just started setting off their own from shore. You could hear the sirens in the background but thought it was French police being overcautious, we had noticed a tense atmosphere on the lead up to and during the Euro 2016 final. The sight of hundreds running towards us - I couldn't help but think of Tunisia."

The Belfast woman said that terrorism was on everyone's lips as panic spread in the city.

"Hundreds of people ran along the beach not knowing what had happened - but they were all muttering ISIS.

"A young couple told us a man went into the crowd with a Kalashnikov and killed lots of people. We didn't believe it, and walked into the old town

"Walking through the quiet narrow streets, I felt like I had escaped the madness of the beach, but suddenly there was lots of screaming and people running through the old town. It seemed the news had just hit them."

Another Belfast man, Sunil Sharma was at a nearby restaurant, when the incident took place. Mr Sharma said he saw floods of people running through the streets in panic. He then took refuge in a nearby hotel. "We heard the sirens of the police and for about 15 minutes there was absolute pandemonium", he said.

Mr Sharma said he was "shocked but relieved" as his two sons were planning to go to the promenade to enjoy the celebrations but had changed their minds at the last minute.

Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native speaking 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 were everywhere."

One eyewitness told France's BFM TV: "Everyone was calling run, run, run there's an attack run, run, run. We heard some shots. We thought they were fireworks because it's the 14th of July.

"There was great panic. We were running too because we didn't want to stick around and we went into a hotel to get to safety."

Colin Srivastava told BBC News: "We were basically sitting just in front of the Old Town in Nice and saw several hundred people running towards us looking panic stricken.

"We tried to ask a few of them what the hell was going on and finally got one that said, 'You need to go, the police have told us to run'.

"Just around about the base of the hill where the castle is in Nice the police came running along and said, 'Run now'.

"We had absolutely no idea what was going on, to be honest with you.

"When we got down into the port in Nice we were told by a few people who'd obviously run faster than we had that there was the story of a lorry that had gone into the people, basically cannoned into the crowd, and there were also shots fired, which is something we didn't hear about until just now on French news."

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan issued a statement condemning the attacks. He said: "This evening's terrible events in Nice have left me deeply shocked and saddened. I deplore the loss of life, and offer heartfelt condolences to the people of France from the people of Ireland.

"Irish citizens in Nice who need to contact the Embassy can do so at (01) 441-76700, and are advised to exercise caution and follow instructions of local authorities.

"Consular staff in my Department are also on hand to take calls from concerned families here in Ireland and they may be contacted at any time at (01) 408-2000."

Irish Independent

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