Monday , December 18 2017

Terror takes wheel in Nice … kills 84 – Amir condoles

An image grab obtained from the Instagram account of GA Morrow, shows people running away from the scene of an attack in the French Riviera city of Nice during Bastille Day on July 14. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande on Friday called a ‘terrorist’ attack. Police shot the driver dead after he drove the truck two kilometres (1.3 miles) through a crowd that had been enjoying a fireworks display on France’s July 14 national holiday. (AFP)
An image grab obtained from the Instagram account of GA Morrow, shows people running away from the scene of an attack in the French Riviera city of Nice during Bastille Day on July 14. A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande on Friday called a ‘terrorist’ attack. Police shot the driver dead after he drove the truck two kilometres (1.3 miles) through a crowd that had been enjoying a fireworks display on France’s July 14 national holiday. (AFP)

NICE, France, July 15, (Agencies): French leaders extended the country’s 8-month-old state of emergency Friday and vowed to deploy thousands of police reservists on the streets after a Tunisian man drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people and wounding 202 others.

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

Video shot by witnesses shows the truck coming under police gunfire as it drives through an intersection along the palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais, which had been turned into a pedestrian walkway for the independence day celebrations. Crowds flee in panic, taking shelter in shops, hotels or leaping off the elevated pavement onto the beach below. Police finally surround the stationary truck and fatally shoot its driver.

Police identified the attacker as Mohamed Bouhlel (pronounced “boo-lel”), a 31-year-old Nice resident and delivery driver, and said he had drawn a gun on them. The truck’s front windshield was riddled with bullets, Bouhlel’s body slumped inside.

In Kuwait,  His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Thursday sent a cable of condolence to French President Francois Hollande over the victims of the terror attack in Nice which targeted innocent people celebrating Bastille Day and left dozens dead and others injured.

In his cable, His Highness the Amir strongly condemned this criminal and terror act which runs counter to all religious teachings and humanitarian values.

Solidarity

He reaffirmed Kuwait’s solidarity with the French people and government, saying Kuwait supports all measures France might take to protect its security against the terrorist acts.

He also renewed Kuwait’s commitment to the international campaign against all forms of terrorism.

His Highness the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah have also sent similar cables to President Hollande.

The Foreign Ministry expressed Friday Kuwait’s condemnation of the terrorist attack which hit the city of Nice in France, leaving at least 84 people dead and over 202 others injured.

A source at the Ministry expressed utter contempt towards the attack which occurred on the eve of France’s national celebration.

The Kuwaiti leadership and people stand in solidarity with France against terrorism, said the source who expressed condolences towards the victims of the attack and also wished the swift recovery of those injured during the incident.

Kuwait’s Ambassador to France Sami Mohammad Al-Suleiman on Friday said there were no Kuwaitis among the victims of the truck attack that hit the coastal French city of Nice Thursday.

Intensive contacts by the embassy in Paris revealed that no Kuwaitis were found among the innocent victims of the criminal Nice attack, Al-Suleiman added in a statement.

The embassy efforts were made upon directives by Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and follow-up by Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Suleiman Al-Jarallah, through an emergency team formed in the aftermath of the attack.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed Friday its deepest sorrow and also condemnation towards the tragic terror attack which hit the city of Nice, France, Thursday evening.

GCC Secretary General Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani said that the attack, which was carried out by a person driving a truck, was a “criminal act” that goes against all humanitarian laws and ethics.

The GCC top official expressed his deepest condolences towards the victims of the attack, hoping for the swift recovery of those injured in the incident.

The Nice terror attack resulted in the death of at least 84 people and the injured of 202 others with 18 individuals in critical condition.

Chief prosecutor Francois Molins said police risked their own lives trying to stop the truck as it traveled 2 kms (1- miles) down the promenade.

Molins said Bouhlel’s estranged wife was arrested in Nice on Friday, while Bouhlel narrowly avoided being put behind bars months before the attack. He said Bouhlel had received a six-month prison sentence in March for a conviction 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 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.

German tourist Richard Gutjahr filmed the moment when the unidentified motorcyclist sped alongside the truck, hopping a curb to try to grab hold of the driver’s door as two police officers on foot nearby fired a single shot each at the driver. The motorcyclist fell to the ground, coming within inches of being struck by truck tires that partly crushed the motorcycle, but got up and briefly climbed aboard the side of the accelerating truck before jumping off again.

The truck surged through an intersection into screaming crowds, where Gutjahr could hear the final confrontation involving 15 to 20 seconds of gunfire.

“Police were everywhere in town for the day. They clearly saw he was a danger, because that truck should never have been on the road,” Gutjahr said.

Damien Allemand, a journalist for the Nice-Matin newspaper, said the fireworks display had finished and the crowd was dispersing when they heard noises and cries.

“A fraction of a second later, an enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people,” he wrote. “I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget.”

On video, one person could be heard yelling, “Help my mother, please!” A pink girl’s bicycle lay overturned by the side of the road.

No group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but French officials called it an undeniable act of terror. The assault on revelers 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 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-staff in Nice, Paris, Brussels and many capitals across Europe. Hollande announced a three-month extension to the state of emergency imposed after the deadly Nov 13 attacks on Paris and the government declared three days of national mourning to begin Saturday.

“Terrorism is a threat that weighs heavily upon France and will continue to weigh for a long time,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. “We are facing a war that terrorism has brought to us. The goal of terrorists is to instill fear and panic. And France is a great country, and a great democracy, that will not allow itself to be destabilized.”

But Hollande faced public anger after traveling to Nice, 690 kms (430 miles) south of Paris, to offer his condolences. He visited wounded people in two hospitals, including one where officials had treated about 50 children and teenagers for a wide range of injuries.

Molins said 52 of the 202 wounded in the attack remained in critical condition Friday night, 25 of them on life support. Among the dead, officials said, were 10 children as well as three Germans, two Americans, Moroccans and Armenians, and one person each from Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine. Two Scots were listed as missing.

Hollande and Christian Estrosi, the president of Nice’s regional government of Provence Alpes d’Azur, ran a gantlet of booing crowds as their convoy passed through Nice. Many of the cat-callers blamed government authorities for failing to enforce sufficient security measures following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

“Mr Estrosi is from the right. Mr Hollande from the left. I say it and I say it loud: These two are killers,” said Christelle Hespel, a Nice resident who accused both of overseeing negligent security.

Hollande’s government, whose popularity has plumbed record lows, has recently been buffeted by allegations that France’s intelligence services have failed to get a handle on the country’s jihadist threat. France has known for years that it is a top Islamic State target, and it is the biggest source for European recruits for IS, with more than 1,000 fighting in Syria or Iraq.

Estrosi said some of the city’s 1,200 security cameras had pinpointed the moment the attacker boarded the truck “in the hills of Nice” and were able to retrace his path to the promenade. He said he suspected Bouhlel did not act alone.

“Attacks aren’t prepared alone. Attacks are prepared with accomplices,” Estrosi said.

Broadcast footage showed a scene of horror along Nice’s promenade, with broken bodies splayed on the asphalt, some piled near one another, others bleeding onto the roadway or twisted into unnatural shapes.

Estrosi told BFM TV that “the driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him.”

Some people tried to escape into the water when they saw the careening truck, according to Eric Ciotti, a lawmaker who represents Nice.

Stephane Erbs was heading back to his car with his wife, Rachel, and their two children when he saw the white truck bearing down on their position. He told The Associated Press that his first instinct was to throw his 7-year-old son, Celion, out of harm’s way, while his wife pushed their daughter, 12-year-old Noemi, to safety.

“I threw him in the direction of the wall” that runs along the promenade, next to the beach, said Erbs, who broke seven ribs as he tried to get out of the way. His children were unharmed but by Friday afternoon his wife was still missing.

A Facebook site called “SOS Nice” has begun to attract posts from people hoping to be reunited with missing family members. The site was quickly filling up with photos, appeals and — in some cases — good news.

A nine-year-old and his family “have finally been found!” one recent post crowed atop a photo of a child in front of a birthday cake.

But it’s not clear that other appeals have been answered.

“No news from Claire who was at the fireworks,” one post said. “She’s 18 years old. If you find her or if you have information, please contact us.”

In Washington, the US State Department and other sources confirmed that Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie, 11, of Lakeway, Texas, were among the dead. They were on a European summer vacation that began with the running of the bulls in Spain.

“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 Copeland family said in a statement. “They are so loved.”

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