PARIS — UPDATED: As France was celebrating Bastille Day on Thursday, a truck crashed into a crowd in Nice, killing 84, injuring dozens and prompting a shootout with police in what is being considered an attack.
The driver of the truck, who was killed by police, has been identified as a 31 year old Tunisian man who resided in Nice with his wife and three children, according to the AFP. Local reports have ID’ed the attacker as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, adding that he was divorcing from his wife and lived alone. He wasn’t known by France’s intelligence services, had never been arrested or questioned for any terrorist activity; but had been arrested for misdemeanor crimes, according to the AFP. ISIS has not yet claimed the attack.
According to French news outlet Nice-Matin, the truck ran into the crowd after fireworks at around 10:30 p.m. Christian Estrosi, the former mayor of Nice and current president of the PACA region, told France’s BFMTV that the driver was firing gunshots at the crowd. The truck carried grenades and weapons which were fake, according to a source close to the investigation cited in French reports.
Two Americans are among the 84 people who have died, a U.S. State Department spokesman confirmed. 68 people are injured, including 18 seriously injured. As many as 50 children are currently hospitalized, according to French reports. The 15-meter truck was apparently driving at 90 km per hour at the time of the crash.
France’s anti-terrorism unit has now launched an investigation. It marks the second-deadliest attack in France since World War II, following the Nov. 13 terror attacks that killed 130 people.
The State of Emergency, which was supposed to end on July 26, will be extended to October 26. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called for a three-day national mourning, July 16, 17 and 18.
President Obama condemned the attack on Thursday, issuing a statement calling it a “horrific terrorist attack.”
— White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) July 14, 2016
Estrosi tweeted about the incident later on Thursday. “Dear people of Nice, the driver of a truck appears to have caused dozens of deaths. Stay for the moment in your home. More info to come,” he wrote in French.
While several outlets reported that there was a hostage situation, the spokesperson for the minister of the interior confirmed that there have been no hostages.
One of Nice-Matin’s journalists who was at the event described the hectic scene: “People were running, it’s panic,” he said. “It came up on the sidewalk towards everybody. There was blood everywhere.”
Since the Nov. 13 attacks, France had been under a State of Emergency, and authorities were on high alert due to UEFA Euro 2016, the European men’s football championship, which ended July 10. Since authorities feared an attack during the Euro, police and security services held a simulated terror attack involving two suicide bombers on May 30 at the Stade de France.