BUGGIES, bodies and belongings litter a mile-long stretch of promenade in Nice the morning after a suspected ISIS fanatic mowed down crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84, The Sun reports. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel mounted the pavement and ploughed into crowds of men, women and children in a 19-tonne truck “like a bowling ball” before opening fire at terrified victims.
Killer Bouhlel, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic, zig-zagged through crowds, sending people “flying like skittles” as they desperately tried to flee to safety, murdering at least 10 children as he went. The attacker mounted the huge, white truck on the pavement of the popular Promenade Des Anglais at 10.30pm last night, shortly after a fireworks display to celebrate Bastille Day finished.
He then sped down the pavement at 40mph, swerving to hit as many victims as he could and leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. Tunisian-born Bouhlel, who was known to authorities as a violent criminal but not on the terrorist radar, stopped the truck after a 1.1 mile stretch of murder and began opening fire at officers trying to stop his attack. Half-an-hour later, at 11pm, Bouhlel was killed by police who sprayed more than 40 bullets into his vehicle.
At least 84 people were killed in the devastating massacre, the worst France has seen since November’s Paris attacks. A further 50 are fighting for their life, Francois Hollande said. More than 10 children were reportedly killed in the atrocity and over 50 were admitted to hospital. Two children died in hospital during or after surgery.
Shocking video footage caught the moment the fanatic was shot dead by police as he fired at them from the lorry he used to murder dozens. Brave victims tried to stop the attack by clinging to the doors of the lorry before being thrown under the wheels and becoming “jammed”.
After being stopped by armed police, who sprayed more than 40 bullets into the lorry’s windscreen, Bouhlel exchanged fire with officers using a 7.65 pistol, before being shot dead. It remains unclear whether he was shot inside or outside of the lorry, which was reportedly rented “a few days ago”.
ID documents belonging to the 31-year-old French Tunisian were found in the 19-tonne truck after he was shot dead by police, according to security sources. Bouhlel is believed to have moved from Sousse, where 38 people were massacred on a beach last year, to Nice and was known to cops for armed theft and violence, but had no direct links to terrorism.
French passport holder Bouhel last appeared in court just three months ago, when he was found guilty of violent contact. Despite this he had no known terrorist links and was not under surveillance. Police have today been raiding the attacker’s house in Abbatoirs, Nice.
A further 18 people are thought to be in a critical condition and more than 50 children were taken to hospital after the atrocity at around 10.30pm last night. Two children died during or after surgery at a nearby hospital. Christian Estrosi, the regional president in Nice, confirmed more than 10 children were among the dead.
A second man is believed to be on the run. Local authorities fear there could be an active cell working on the Côte d’Azur after the truck was spotted on CCTV in the hills outside Nice.It’s thought the hired truck was left there by an accomplice, where it was picked up by Bouhlel.
A police source told AFP: “The truck was rented in the last few days in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said one British national is known to be injured in the attack. The first victims were today named as American dad and son Sean Copeland, 51 and Brodie, 11.
Sean and Brodie were on a “dream holiday” to the south of France from Texas and were confirmed dead by friends and family online. Haley Copeland wrote: “By now many of you have heard about the 80 people that have died in Nice, France today from a terrorist attack driving through a parade.
“Two of those 80 people were American and those two people happen to be uncle Sean and 11-year-old cousin Brodie. “They were on vacation with my two other cousins and aunt celebrating a birthday.” Devastated Hayley added: “This is an extremely difficult time for my family and anyone who knows Sean and Brodie Copeland.
“Losing a loved one is hard no matter the circumstances but losing a loved on in such a tragic and unexpected way is unbearable. Prayers are much appreciated.” Police said a huge arsenal of guns, grenades and “larger weapons” were found in the vehicle alongside the driver, as pro-ISIS groups celebrated the horror massacre.
Dozens of victims, many of whom were children, were seen lying injured on Promenade des Anglais along the city’s famous waterfront. Around 100 petrified revellers threw themselves in the sea to escape the carnage, while parents threw their children over fences to safety. Grieving student Polina Serebryannikova, 22, was with her friend Victoria Savchenko. 21, when they saw the lorry careering towards them.
Tragic Victoria died instantly after being hit by the zig-zagging truck but Polina survived despite multiple injuries. Heartbroken relatives refused to leave the bodies of their loved ones today as the city woke up reeling from the tragedy. A crowd of 17-year-olds described seeing people run over as they fled the scene, with one person hiding in a nearby hotel.
Tiffany Marchbanks, an American student living in Nice, was watching the fireworks from the third-floor Hyatt Regency Nice hotel when she saw the truck speed up and stop about three metres away from the hotel as a band began playing on the promenade. The student described a “weird silence” before gunfire started, sounding “like a video game”, before “a few more shots and the worst screaming I’ve ever heard in my life”.
Tiffany said it was unclear whether the driver started shooting before police and described officers stopping family members trying to get through to loved ones caught on the promenade. She was stuck at the hotel until 4am and said taxi drivers gave people stuck on the promenade free rides home.
Tiffany added: “Being on top of the terrace looking down, there were kids and baby, all dead, blood everywhere. The sheets covering bodies weren’t white anymore.” Nice has been described as a “jihadist breeding ground” that has long been the target of a deadly terror attack, according to experts. The city of 350,000, which has a huge immigrant population, has seen dozens of residents travel to Syria to fight for Islamic State.
Claude Moniquet, a former French intelligence agent and security consultant, said: “Neither the place nor the date are coincidental.” A heroic motorcyclist flung himself onto the lorry as it mowed people down in a bid to stop the atrocity. Shocking video footage shows the brave man clinging to the side of the vehicle as officers ahead shoot in an attempt to stop the driver.
It is unclear whether the hero survived the attack. One witness said: “The whole area is pedestrianised and the lorry came down the south side. “It crushed the crowd like a bowling ball. Everything in its path was crushed.” Another revealed: “The lorry turned towards the crowds and the driver just put his foot down.
“It caused mass panic and a stampede away. It was terrifying.” Eyewitness Damien Allemend told Nice-Matin: “I saw bodies flying like skittles as it drove along. I just froze… The beach attendants were the first on the scene. They bought water for the wounded and towels they placed over those for whom there was no hope.”
Brit Kartik Bhanot, from Essex, witnessed the horror unfold with his dad, sister and mum, who has cancer and says he originally thought it was a drunk driver. He added: “Suddenly as we crossed the unction, we heard screams and loud bangs. I looked for my mum and she was sprinting away.
“Despite being on chemo she was obviously more attentive than me.”
ISIS chief urged fanatics to ‘run over’ Westerners
Spokesman for the terrorist group Abu Mohammed al-Adnani made specific reference to the “spiteful and filthy French” in the hateful outburst two years ago. Apparently inspired by the hateful outburst, at least 84 now lay dead after a lorry tore into thousands of Bastille Day revellers on the French Riviera city’s promenade.
Appealing to radicalised Muslims, twisted Al-Adnani urged: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a anadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
Kartik and his family managed to escape the scene, get their car from a nearby car park and leave the area. He said: “I’m still shaking. My last memory of the incident is of a young guy in a blue shirt lying crooked on the ground after the lorry raced past him and through him.
“I don’t know if he was shot or run over, or just fell over, but I’m praying he is fine.” It was the second worst terror attack in French history, behind November’s atrocities in Paris. Anti-terror police last night put the city on lockdown and warned residents to stay indoors as they swooped in.
One eyewitness who works for the Nice authorities said: “It is absolute chaos. Bodies are lying everywhere. Police are flooding the streets, including anti-terrorism officers. “Nobody knows what to do — except to hide away.” The European country has been in a state of emergency since the November Paris attacks.
President Francois Hollande today extended the emergency, which was due to end on July 26, by three months, as he pledged to “hit” ISIS in Syria and Iraq “even harder” . French Prime Minister Manual Valls says the country will observe three days of national mourning from Saturday.
He added: “The goal of terrorists is to instil fear and panic, but France is a great democracy that will not allow itself to be destabilised.” Wassim Bohel, who witnessed the attack, said: We almost died. It was like hallucinating… (the lorry) zigzagged – you had no idea where it was going. My wife was a metre away.”
One British family caught up in the horror told how they fled as the lorry ploughed into the crowd. Harjit Sarang was on holiday in Nice — where the England football team played Iceland in Euro 2016 two weeks ago — with her husband and sons, aged six and nine.
Lawyer Harjit, from London, said: “We were told about the fireworks by someone in the hotel and decided to go along. “I was going to leave my husband to take the boys because I was tired but I am so glad I didn’t. “The fireworks had finished when we saw people running and screaming.
“It was sheer panic and, with the volume of people, it was a crowd mentality. “We started running. It was so difficult to stay together and to stay calm, especially with two small boys. “We just ran, we panicked, not even knowing in which direction our hotel was. “My eldest son was yelling at us, ‘Why have you brought me here? I’m never coming here again’. The worst thing is thinking we took our children into that.”
The UK Foreign Office is “standing by” to help Brits in Nice and advised those in the area to contact friends and family to let them know they are safe. London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the city is “reviewing our own safety” after the atrocity. Videos posted online showed panicked people running from the scene in fear.
Shocking images appearing on social media showed people lying motionless on the ground after the terrifying incident. Others showed people receiving medical treatment in a chilling echo of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. Meanwhile, Facebook has activated its Safety Check for those concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Another British holidaymaker Esther Serwah, 59, was on her way with her daughters to the Promenade des Anglais for dinner when people started screaming at her.
Mrs Serwah, from Surrey, said: “I was just walking to the Promenade and then I saw everybody running and I just didn’t know what was going on. “People were screaming at me in French but I didn’t understand. “People were lying on the streets dead and people were running over the bodies. Everybody was saying it’s a terrorist attack.
“It’s just horrible, horrible, horrible. I’m in shock. I’m still shaking.”France TV Info reported a dad known only as Kevin was with his wife and two kids trying to find an ice cream when panic broke out.He said: “I was barely 50m from the scene. I gave my wife and my children in a safe spot with the ice cream vendor and I ran, against all my instincts, to see if I could help.
“I shouldn’t have done that. What I saw, it was horrible. “The bodies of crushed women, covered in blood, there was nothing anyone could do to help and I turned and ran back up the road.” France’s President Hollande returned to Paris from Avignon for emergency talks.
In an emotional speech he said: “Last night a lorry hit a crowd of people in Nice with the intention of killing. “At the time I speak there are 77 victims, of which many are children. “Once again we have seen extreme violence and it is obvious we must do everything to fight against this terrorism.
“The driver was shot and killed. We are investigating whether he was linked to any others.”He told of his devastation after France was hit on its national day, adding: “I want to express my solidarity with the nation, which is now in mourning. I have instructed all regional hospitals to be prepared for an influx of injured.
“Under these circumstances we must display caution. and we must work together but we must during this busy weekend show care and attention for security.”
He ended by saying: “France is in tears, it is hurting but it is strong and she will be stronger – always stronger than the fanatics who wish to hurt us.”
French Interior minister Bernard Cazaneuve said: “We are in a war with terrorists who want to strike us at any price and in a very violent way.” Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet gave an update on the rapidly developing situation. He said: “There is no hostage-taking. An individual drove a truck into the crowd. He was killed by police.
“Investigations are currently under way to establish if the individual acted alone or if he had accomplices who might have fled.” Local politician Eric Ciotti described the promenade as “a scene of horror” and confirmed the driver was killed by police “apparently after an exchange of gunfire”.
Brit tourist Kevin Harris left the promenade just minutes before the attack. He told Good Morning Britain: “After a minute of being back in my room,I heard some gunshots went out on my terrace and saw this dreadful scene. “Lots of bodies lying in the middle of the promenade… everybody was dead.”
The mayor said the city’s hospitals were struggling to cope with a constant stream of victims and added: “This is the most terrible attack we have ever experienced in Nice.” Last night the country’s anti-terrorism investigation department took over the case. An investigation into “murder, attempted murder in an organised group linked to a terrorist enterprise” is underway.
A Downing Street spokesman said PM Theresa May was being kept up to date with developments in France. He stressed: “Our thoughts are with those affected by this terrible incident on what was a day of national celebration.” Theresa May today said: “If this was a terrorist attack we must redouble our efforts to defeat these brutal murderers who want to destroy our way of life.”
She added: “Our hearts go out to the French people, and to all those who have lost loved ones or been injured.” New Chancellor Philip Hammond tweeted: “Shocked and saddened by the loss of life in France. My thoughts are with all those affected.” Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith announced that he would be cancelling Friday’s campaign launch “in light of the heartbreaking news from Nice”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan paid tribute on Twitter: “Devastated by this unspeakable attack on #Nice. London is united with you in our grief, and in our determination to defeat terrorism.”