15 July 2016

Truck rams Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, killing over eighty

The Washington Post has an article by Michael Birnbaum and the BBC has one by Dominic Howell, Martha Buckley, Marysia Nowak, and Ashley Gold about the terror attack in Nice, France:

A Tunisian-born émigré with a record of petty crime was behind the wheel of a truck that barreled into Bastille Day revelers and claimed at least 84 lives over a mile-long path of horror, a French prosecutor said Friday, as investigators explored possible links to Islamist militant networks.
The driver was identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, whose identity documents, cellphone and bank card were found inside the nineteen-ton truck used in Thursday’s carnage along a palm-lined French Riviera corniche in Nice, according to Paris Prosecutor François Molins. He said ten children were among the dead and that over two hundred people were injured, more than fifty of them critically. Twenty-five, he said, remained comatose.
The attack, the third major one in the last eighteen months, left the nation reeling and sparked questions about the authorities’ security plans. Many witnesses in Nice questioned how an attacker had been able to bypass a security cordon for a major French city’s Bastille Day celebrations, then mow down hundreds of people on a closed-off thoroughfare over more than a mile.​
In a marker of the discontent, French President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls were booed Friday when they visited the attack site on the seaside promenade. Onlookers said they should have done more to ensure security.
Thousands of police officers were on duty Thursday night, but their security checkpoints blocked only the road, not the wide sidewalks crowded by tens of thousands of people.
Molins said that Bouhlel did not have any apparent previous links to extremism, underlining the difficulty of preventing such attacks. Although the truck driver had been connected to assault and theft since 2010, the prosecutor said he was “entirely unknown” to anti-terrorist units.
“Yesterday’s attack has not yet been claimed, but I must stay that this kind of attack is in line with those type advocated by the terrorist organizations in various videos,” Molins said.
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Investigators were scrambling to determine whether Bouhlel acted alone, or if he had connections and a support network that could be plotting further violence. Bouhlel’s ex-wife was detained as part of the investigation, the prosecutor said.
[Texas father and son among the dead]
Photos from the scene after truck plows into Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France
View Photos Police and emergency workers investigate the area after the horrific attack that killed dozens.
In response to the attack, French leaders extended a national state of emergency and vowed to expand the fight against Islamist militants beyond France’s borders by boosting the country’s military role in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State has strongholds.
At a White House meeting with foreign diplomats Friday, President Obama lamented that “so many children” were killed or hurt in the “sickening attack” in Nice. He said he spoke to Hollande earlier in the day and pledged that the United States would stand with France “as we defend our nations against this scourge of terrorism and violence.”
“These terrorists are targeting and killing innocent people of all backgrounds and faiths, including Muslims,” Obama said. He vowed to “keep taking out” Islamic State leaders on the battlefield.
“We will not be deterred,” he said. “We will not relent. . . . We are going to destroy this vile terrorist organization.”
Bouhlel zigzagged the white box truck through the crowds, witnesses said, then opened fire on survivors before being shot dead by police. Hollande said at least 50 people remained in critical condition, hanging between “life and death.”
The truck struck the crowd after a fireworks display on the most important day in the French patriotic calendar on the Promenade des Anglais here.
Among the dead were at least two Americans, a vacationing father and son from Lakeway, Tex.
The European Innovation Academy in Nice said four of its students were also missing, including an American it identified as Nicolas Leslie, 20. The others unaccounted for were two Estonians and a Ukrainian, the academy said.
Those critical of the police preparations included Sonia Chemmka, 24, and her friend Laure Teresi, 24, who had watched the fireworks near the area where Bouhlel was shot by police.

“What we don’t understand is why he could drive so far,” said Chemmka. “The police here were not evenly spread out enough to be prepared for such an attack. They had many armed officers in the area where we were and where they probably expected something to happen,” she said, but friends on the side of the promenade where the truck drove into the crowd “told me that they saw very few officers and nearly no police cars there.”
“I would say that there was no overall lack of police officers, but they were not well organized,” said Teresi.
Chemmka and Teresi fled to the beach immediately after hearing gunshots at around 10.42 p.m. They said they were lucky that there were not more attackers. “We did not see a single officer at the beach who could have protected us,” said Chemmka.
Early Friday, tarp-covered bodies were marked by orange and white traffic-control barriers that stood like rows of tombstones.
The truck used in the attack was rented Monday from the Via Location rental agency just outside Nice, according to a woman at the agency who answered the phone Friday but said she was not authorized to give her name. She said the French Interior Ministry had asked the agency not to share further information with the investigation underway.
[Shouts, a desperate dash and then ‘bodies, limbs and blood’]
Amid the high-alert atmosphere in Nice, the city’s airport was briefly evacuated Friday after reports of a suspicious package. No threat was discovered.
The attack plunged the country back into mourning and crisis. It was the latest in a string of mass-casualty assaults over the past 18 months that have put France on the front lines of attacks linked to the Islamic State.
Valls, the French prime minister, said Friday that terrorism was likely to plague France for the foreseeable future.
“The threat of terrorism, as we have now been saying for a long time, is weighing heavily on France, and it will continue to do so for a long time yet,” Valls said after an emergency meeting in Paris. “We are facing a war waged on us by terrorism.”

France had just exhaled after living for weeks with terrorism fears during the European soccer championships, which concluded Sunday. And hours before the violence, Hollande had announced that he planned to allow a state of emergency to expire at the end of the month. On Friday, Hollande said it would be extended for three months instead.
[On Nice’s promenade: timeless beauty, modern horror]
Hollande said authorities were not yet sure whether the attack was perpetrated by an individual or “perhaps multiple individuals.”
The attack was a “barbaric act,” Hollande said after meeting with top officials in Nice. “An individual who took a truck and murdered people with it.”
“There are a lot of children, young children, children who came to see the fireworks with their families,” Hollande said, “to share the amazement and the joy.”
[Truck as terror tool]
Witnesses described total chaos, with the crackle of gunfire and people screaming as they fled the scene. Graphic video and photographs flooding social media showed bodies strewn for a mile along the boulevard where the truck plowed into the crowd. Revelers ran while sirens blared.
France declared three days of mourning beginning Saturday, and flags will fly at half-staff.
The attack was the latest in a string of horrific incidents that have unfolded across Europe in the past 18 months. In March, Islamic State attackers killed 32 people in suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station.
France was rocked by a devastating terrorist attack in November, when heavily armed suicide bombers killed 130 people in several places around Paris. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for that attack, the worst bloodshed on French soil since World War II.
In an address early Friday, Hollande condemned the “attack whose terrorist nature cannot be denied.” He announced that France would ramp up its military efforts in Syria and Iraq, where a U.S.-led coalition has tried to uproot the Islamic State from its strongholds.
[Newt Gingrich suggests sharia ‘test’ for Muslims]
“All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorism,” said Hollande, who returned to Paris to deal with the crisis after a private visit to Avignon, France.

“[France] is strong. It will always be stronger, I assure you, than the fanatics that want to attack it today.”
The nearby city of Marseille, one of France’s largest, canceled its own fireworks display in response to the attack.
The reverberations spread across Europe. Germany said it would tighten border checks, Italy ordered police officials to reinforce security at all “sensitive targets,” and Belgium added additional counterterrorist measures before its own national holiday celebrations next week.
[Texas father and son among the dead]
In London, the French flag flew from atop 10 Downing Street, and new Prime Minister Theresa May convened a meeting of the government’s emergency “Cobra” committee. May described the attack as “horrifying” and said Britain will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with France.
Obama on Friday ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset Tuesday to honor victims of the Nice attack.
In Moscow, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, said the attack underscored the need to end the violence in Syria, where the Islamic State has its de facto capital. The United States is proposing greater intelligence coordination with Russia on Syria.
“The problem,” a solemn Kerry told Lavrov, “is you and I and other foreign ministers are doing this now on almost a weekly basis. And nowhere is there a greater hotbed or incubator for these terrorists than in Syria.”
After more than four hours discussing whether to coordinate airstrikes against jihadists in Syria, Kerry and Lavrov went to the French Embassy in Moscow to lay a wreath and sign a book of condolences. The attack in Nice bracketed their meeting, which started with a moment of silence for the victims.
“On behalf of the people of the United States of America, we express our deepest condolences and our brother and sisterhood with the people of France. May we all show strength and purpose to end this scourge of terror and find peace in our time!” Kerry wrote in the book.
[One woman helped the Paris attacks mastermind. The other turned him in.]
The Islamic State has previously called for attacks using vehicles, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist statements. It said supporters of the radical Islamist organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, were sharing the news of the Nice attack and “celebrating the massacre.”
Pro-Islamic State forums posted old messages in which the terrorist group urged followers to carry out lone-wolf attacks against France. In 2010, the online magazine linked al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based faction described using a vehicle to “mow down” victims, according to SITE.
Within half an hour of initial reports of the incident, Facebook had activated its “safety check” feature for people in Nice. On Twitter, others used the hashtag #Portes­OuvertesNice (“OpenDoorsNice”) to find and offer refuge to those who needed a place to stay.
The attack came on one of France’s most treasured holidays, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. In Paris, the occasion is marked by a military parade down the Champs-Elysees, the oldest such parade in Europe.
“There were so many injured, and dead bodies,” said Fiona Le Goff, 27, a concierge at an apartment building facing the Promenade des Anglais. “The worst was a woman whose body was just stuck to the street."
Later, she surveyed the area as forensic teams moved in. “There were people just covered with white cloths,” she said. “It was . . . horrible."
Among the dead were two Americans: Sean Copeland, 50, and his 11-year-old son Brodie from Lakeway, Tex., about 20 miles west of Austin. The two were vacationing around Europe together on a trip that began in Pamplona, Spain, and continued through Barcelona.
They had stopped in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day.
“We are heartbroken and in shock over the loss of Brodie Copeland, an amazing son and brother who lit up our lives, and Sean Copeland, a wonderful husband and father,” the family said in a statement released by family friend Jess Davis, which was obtained by the Austin-American Statesmen. “They are so loved . . . it was a terrible loss.”


Rico says the French are gonna get tired of this and, when they do, watch for dead Islamists...

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