At least 84 people were killed and 100 injured in the French city of Nice when a man deliberately drove a lorry into a crowd celebrating the country’s main national holiday, authorities said.
The attacker behind the wheel on Thursday drove at high speed along the famed Promenade des Anglais seafront, careering into spectators who had been watching a Bastille Day firework display.
Police shot and killed the driver, officials said.
France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that children were among the dead and 18 people were in a critical condition.
“There’s no denying the terrorist nature of this attack of yet again the most extreme form of violence,” French President Francois Hollande said in an address to the nation in the early hours of Friday.
Hollande said that he would extend a state of emergency – which had been in place since the attacks in Paris last November – for another three months from July 26.
“Nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism. We will further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria. We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil,” he said, in reference to France’s involvement in a coalition of nations carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
Isil claimed responsibility Saturday for the attack by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel who used a hired lorry to kill at least 84 people in a rampage during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.
The Amaq news agency, which is linked to the Islamic State, cited an “insider source” in declaring that Bouhlel “was a soldier of the Islamic State.”
“He executed the operation in response to calls to target citizens of coalition nations that fight the Islamic State,” the news agency wrote.
Separately, the Islamic State’s al-Bayan radio station said Bouhlel used “a new tactic” to wreak havoc. “The crusader countries know that no matter how much they enforce their security measures and procedures, it will not stop the mujahideen from striking,” the station said.
Fingerprints confirmed Bouhlel’s identity and his wife has been detained since this morning, French prosecutor Francois Molins said at a news conference today.
Officials recovered an automatic handgun, grenade and ammunition from his truck, among other weapons and items. Investigators seized computers and cellphones during searches at two different addresses, Molins said.
Although Molins said the man was “entirely unknown by intelligence services” and had no file of radicalization, Bouhlel was sentenced in March to a six-month suspended prison sentence for use of a weapon.