A massive crowd gathered to see the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice in France was in for a shock when a truck ploughed through the crowds on Thursday evening, mowing down and killing at least 84 people. Several others are said to be injured and about 18 people are said to be in a critical.
French President Francois Hollande said the attack had an “undeniable terrorist nature.” In his address to the nation, Hollande confirmed that “several children” were among the dead as families came together to celebrate France’s national day.
“France was struck on its national day … the symbol of freedom,” a sombre Hollande added.
The driver of the truck was shot dead after he had driven the truck 2 kms through the festive crowd on the promenade sea front.
As the truck ploughed through, hundreds of people began to flee but those who came before the truck had nowhere to go. Scores of bodies were strewn on the palm-lined promenade after the attack.
Robert Holloway, an AFP reporter who witnessed the attack said the white truck driving with great speed into the crowd. He described the scene as “absolute chaos”.
“We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around. I had to protect my face from flying debris,” Holloway said.
Authorities revealed that the was laden with “guns” and other “larger weapons”. The driver of the truck was identified as a 31-year-old French-Tunisian citizen.
The attack comes just a day after France displayed its military prowess at a ceremony in Paris. Armed forces, tanks and fighter jets swooped down the Champs Elysees avenue during the celebrations.
The attack is the third major strike against France in less than 18 months. It’s only been 8 months since the dreadful Islamic State attacked Paris nightspots that left 130 people dead.
World leaders condemned the horrifying attack.
France has decided to extend the state of emergency for another three months in the wake of this latest attack. Hollande said the government will “step up” its action against jihadists in Syria and Iraq. He also asked the army reservists to bolster the country’s security services that are stretched to the limit.
(With inputs from agencies)