Article first published 7/14/2016, updated and reformatted as new details have emerged.
More than 80 people are dead and 200 wounded in what appears to be a terror attack in the city of Nice on the French Riviera. Just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, while crowds gathered on the Promenade des Anglais to watch fireworks in celebration of Bastille Day — a commemoration of French unity and remembrance of the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution — a French Tunisian man identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, deliberately drove a large truck (pictured above) through the crowd, running over dozens of people, before he was killed in a shootout with police officers.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. At least 84 people are dead and 202 wounded.
The latest reports indicate that at least 84 people were killed and 202 were wounded, with over two dozen on life support, after Bouhlel deliberately ran over revelers — witnesses saying he came in at about 40 mph and drove for over a mile on the pedestrian-packed promenade — and then opened fire on the crowd after the vehicle came to a stop.
“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,” one man told French network BMF TV. “There were bodies everywhere,” another witness told AP.
2. Among the dead are at least 10 children, with more than 50 children injured.
3. The terrorist was killed in a shootout with police officers.
According to early reports, the terrorist exited the vehicle and began to shoot at pedestrians, eventually exchanging gun fire with anti-terror police before he was shot dead near the truck. However, more recent reports indicate that he remained in the cab of the vehicle, exchanging fire with officers from there.
“We heard loads of gun shots – we saw people running in all directions,” one witness told BMF TV. “It’s total panic,” another man told the channel. “We saw a white lorry which drove directly into people on the Promenade des Anglais. A gunman fired into the crowd before being shot by police. Perhaps they are dead, I’m not sure.”
Inside the truck, authorities found guns and grenades.
4. The killer reportedly cried “Allahu Akbar” in his final moments.
5. The terrorist, a permanent resident originally from Tunisia, was known as a “loner” and had a criminal record.
Authorities have confirmed that Bouhlel was originally from Msaken, Tunisia. He received his French permanent resident permit (image below) years ago. Tunisian sources say he was not known to have held radical Islamist views. He was a divorced father of three who was on law enforcement’s radar for years due to a series of offenses, including robbery, domestic violence, and assault with a weapon, and has been described by those who knew him as a “loner.”
6. Authorities are investigating the attack as an act of terrorism.
Sky News reports that “the Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a terrorism investigation into the lorry attack”:
7. ISIS have claimed credit.
ISIS immediately celebrated the attack:
ISIS has since claimed credit for the massacre, describing Bouhlel as a “soldier” of the radical group, a claim French authorities have not refuted. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters after a ministerial meeting that Bouhlel seems to have been “radicalized very quickly,” stressing the difficulty of attempting to prevent such an attack.
8. Authorities feared he might not have been acting alone.
While the man driving the truck was killed by police, he might have had at least one accomplice that escaped. That possibility resulted in Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi issuing a statement to citizens to shelter in place:
“Dear Nice locals, the driver of the truck seems to have caused dozens of deaths. Stay in your homes for now. More information to come,” Estrossi announced in a statement.
9. Early reports of a hostage situation proved to be false.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet clarified in a statement that there was no hostage situation, as some early reports had indicated.
“There is no hostage-taking. An individual drove a truck into the crowd. He was killed by police,” said Brandet. “Investigations are currently under way to establish if the individual acted alone or if he had accomplices who might have fled.”
10. American political leaders responded quickly, Trump connecting the attack to Islamic terrorism, while Obama remained more vague.
“Another horrific attack, this time in Nice, France. Many dead and injured. When will we learn? It is only getting worse,” tweeted Trump Friday evening. He also stated that he will postpone his planned announcement of a vice presidential pick Friday.
Late Thursday, President Obama issued a statement of solidarity with France, and said it appeared to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”
“On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians,” he said.
Witness’s harrowing account:
One British law student, Joel Fenster, 23, who made it safely to his apartment in Nice, gave the Telegraph the following harrowing account of the attack:
“We went to watch the fireworks on the beach and then after we knew there was meant to be a concert so we were walking round to the promenade, It was a perfectly normal night. Suddenly everyone started running in the opposite direction to us, and ducking down. It seemed like there was someone coming – there was a strong sense that we needed to get away. So we started running away from the beach, inland towards the old town. We heard the gunshots – initially one, then later two more. … We ran down a road, everyone was ducking down and going into doorways. We ran into an alleyway and crouched down for about an hour. The whole time it was terrifying but didn’t quite feel real. We ran into a restaurant that was open, people were rushing into it from the street. At that point we thought there was a shooter running around. The police came and told the owner to turn the lights off and put the shutters down. Everyone got down on the floor, crouching below tables. There were quite a few young children, they were terrified.”
Footage and images of the attack and aftermath posted on social media below.
(Warning: disturbing content)