Truck Rams into Bastille Day Celebrations, Killing at Least 84

At least eighty-four people were killed Thursday when a 31-year old Tunisian plowed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. He accelerated, and continued to drive for about 1.5 miles, running over people who crowded the boulevard. More than 200 were injured, some of them are in critical condition.

Police shot and killed the driver, Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who had a residency permit to live and work in France. 

Witnesses told reporters that the driver hit the crowd at high speed, swerving right and left to hit as many as possible. The truck eventually came to a stoop, and the driver climbed out of the cabin and shot more people dead. The police found more guns, and about twenty hand-grenades, in the truck.

President Francois Hollande, after an emergency meeting of the security cabinet, announced several security measures, including the 3-months extension of France’s state of emergency, which was imposed after the November 215 terrorist attacks in Paris, and which is due to expire on 26 July. “A horror has come down on France again,” he said, adding that “the terrorist character [of the attack] cannot be denied.” The attack happened on the Promenade des Anglais at around 10:30 p.m. local time, just as the firework display has ended. The promenade has been closed to traffic to allow people to celebrate Bastille Day.

Hollande expressed solidarity with the victims, but defiantly said that France would continue its operations in Syria and Iraq. “After Paris, Nice is now hit,” he said. “It is all of France which is under threat of Islamic terrorism. “It is clear we need to do all we can to fight against terrorism,” he said. “France is strong, and France will always be stronger, I assure you.”

French media reports that Bouhel was born in the town of Msaken, Tunisia in 1985, was a divorced father of three; and neighbors said he had become depressed after the breakdown of his marriage. The neighbors told the TV channel that Bouhlele was not particularly interested in religion, adding that he preferred girls and salsa. They described him as a “loner,” and as “depressed and unstable, even aggressive” of late, adding that this was probably the result of his “marital and financial problems.”

He had brushes with the police, and was brought to court on several occasions, and had convictions for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats, and robbery. BFMTV reports that he had also recently caused an accident after falling asleep at the wheel while working as a delivery driver, and was taken into custody following the incident.

His last appearance in a criminal court was March.

The police said he had no known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance.

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