Scores dead in terror attack on French national holiday

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France’s deadliest terror attack in months left at least 84 dead on Thursday, reportedly including two Americans, when a gunman behind the wheel of a heavy truck plowed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

Police identified the attacker as a 31-year-old Frenchman born in Tunisia. The assailant, reportedly known to police though not on any terrorist watchlist, was shot and killed by authorities after opening fire on the crowd.

{mosads}Local newspaper Nice-Matin identified the driver as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a resident of Nice.

French President François Hollande held a brief press conference in the early morning hours local time, calling the incident a terror attack and reaffirming the country’s dedication to fighting terrorism.

“It is all of France which is under the threat of Islamic terrorism. So in these circumstances we must show absolute vigilance and a determination without end,” he said. 

In the U.S., presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both condemned the attack, with Trump postponing his Friday plans to announce his vice presidential pick.

At least 18 other victims in Nice were left in critical condition, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, when a 25-ton truck breached a pedestrian-only area along the Promenade des Anglais just as Bastille Day fireworks were ending.

So far the violence appears to be the work of a lone individual, making it the deadliest solo attack in France’s history.

“France was hit on the day of her national holiday, the 14th of July, symbol of liberty, because the rights of man are denied by fanatics and France is inevitably their target,” Hollande said.

The nation had been living under a state of emergency since last November’s coordinated attack in Paris by terrorists loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which killed 130.

Hollande said France will boost its security measures and will extend the state of emergency, which was set to expire in about two weeks, for an additional three months. He began the process of calling up military and police reservists and of tightening border security.

WFTV reported that an American father and his 11-year-old son, visiting Nice from Texas, were among the dead. Their names have not yet been released by authorities.

President Obama condemned the attack and said the U.S. will assist France in any way possible in the aftermath. 

“On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians,” Obama said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded. I have directed my team to be in touch with French officials, and we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice. We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack.”

Presumptive White House nominees Clinton and Trump called into news networks to decry the attacks and call for action. Trump said he would ask Congress to declare war and warned against allowing refugees into the country, and Clinton called for a heightened focus on intelligence and international cooperation. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a statement reinforcing the U.S. relationship with France.

“Our hearts are with the victims of what appears to be yet another unconscionable act of terror. In the coming days we’ll learn more about who did this and why. For now we must stand strong with the people of our dear friend and ally France,” he said.

Bastille Day is France’s national holiday and celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution 227 years ago. Nice is one of the country’s most populous cities and is in the midst of peak tourism season.
Since last year’s Paris attacks, terrorist groups and radicalized lone attackers have carried out a string of horrific strikes around the globe, including in Brussels, Baghdad, San Bernardino and Orlando.

Last updated at 6:10 a.m. Nikita Vladimirov and Tristan Lejeune contributed.


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