“All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorists,” a somber President Francois Hollande declared on national television.
The French Interior Ministry has raised the death toll to 84 from the attack on people celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera city of Nice. Four deaths were apparently from the 18 people who were seriously injured when a truck slammed into the crowds. Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve said extra medical-legal police were being sent to Nice to speed the identification process so bodies can be returned to families.
A large truck mowed through revelers gathered for Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, killing at least 84 people and sending many more fleeing into the sea as it bore down for more than a mile along the Riviera city’s famed waterfront promenade.
The Thursday night attack on France’s national holiday rocked a nation still dealing with the aftermath of attacks in November in Paris that killed 130 and in January 2015 that claimed 17 lives. No one immediately claimed responsibility.
“All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorists,” a somber President Francois Hollande said on national television early Friday.
The truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of two kilometers (about 1.2 miles), he said, and broadcast footage showed a scene of horror up and down the promenade, with broken bodies splayed on the asphalt, some piled near one another, others bleeding onto the roadway or twisted into unnatural shapes.
Some tried to escape into the water, a lawmaker for the region that includes Nice said Friday, giving new details of the horrifying last minutes of the attack.
“A person jumped onto the truck to try to stop it,” Eric Ciotti told Europe 1 radio. “It’s at that moment that the police were able to neutralize this terrorist. I won’t forget the look of this policewoman who intercepted the killer.”
Flags were lowered to half-staff in Nice and in Paris, and Hollande extended the state of emergency imposed after the November bloodshed another three months.
“France was struck on the day of its national holiday, July 14, the symbol of liberty,” Hollande said early Friday, denouncing “this monstrosity” — a truck bearing down on citizens “with the intention of killing, smashing and massacring … an absolute violence.”
“We are in a war with terrorists who want to strike us at any price and in a very violent way,” Cazeneuve said.
France has lived with soldiers in the streets since the November attacks, and much of the country was under intense security during the month-long European football championships, which ended July 10 without incident.
Christian Estrosi, the regional president in Nice, said more than 10 children were among the dead and that France needs to think carefully about its next response to attacks, as previous responses were not enough to protect the people.
Hollande announced a series of measures to bolster security. Besides continuing the state of emergency and the Sentinel operation with 10,000 soldiers on patrol, he said he was calling up “operational reserves,” those who have served in the past and will be brought in to help police, particularly at French borders.
He reiterated that France is also bolstering its presence in Iraq and Syria, where he said earlier that military advisers would be on the ground to help Iraqis take back the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.
European Council president Donald Tusk said it was a “tragic paradox” that the victims of the attack in Nice were celebrating “liberty, equality and fraternity” — France’s motto — on the country’s national day.