Dozens reported dead as truck plows into crowd in Nice, France (GRAPHIC IMAGES)
The attacker’s ID was found in the truck, revealing that he was a 31-year-old man of Tunisian origin, Nice-Matin reported, citing sources.
Meanwhile, TV channel i-Tele said that the attacker had already been known to law enforcement, but only for minor crimes and not in connection with terrorism.
Sebastien Humbert, the prefect for the Alpes-Maritime area, detailed the circumstances of the crash, explaining the high number of casualties to BFM.
I'm in #nice and cannot describe the situation- scary awful. Dead bodies everywhere people killed in front of my eyes. Had to b planned— Certified Tax Coach (@CertTaxCoach) July 14, 2016
"A truck rammed into the crowd over a long distance, which explains this extremely heavy toll," he said.
Former Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the truck “was loaded with weapons and grenades,” speaking to BFM.
BMF reported that the truck with the attacker rammed the crowd for 2 kilometers before it was stopped.
Damien Allemand, a Nice-Matin reporter who witnessed the attack, said the assailant was trying to maximize the number of casualties by moving the truck erratically.
“An enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people," he wrote, adding that the victims' bodies were “flying like bowling pins along its route."
Nice regional president Eric Ciotti confirmed to BFM that the attacker was killed "apparently after an exchange of gunfire."
Meanwhile, the death toll has risen to over 70 people, he wrote, confirming the earlier reports.
"This is the worst drama in the history of Nice with more than 70 victims already," he said on Twitter.
BFM also said that authorities have classified the incident as an “attack.”
“There are people in blood, probably full of wounded,” a reporter for the Nice Matin newspaper said.
According to an eyewitness report cited by BFM, the driver of the truck shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” before the attack.
Witnesses reported that the truck that drove into the crowd while people were watching the fireworks celebration of Bastille Day. Photos emerged on social media showing injured people lying on the ground en masse.
Le camion qui a foncé sur la foule pic.twitter.com/h4QuBabJMx— Nice-Matin (@Nice_Matin) July 14, 2016
President of the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region Christian Estrosi said on Twitter that “dozens” of people had been killed in the incident.
Police cordoned off Promenade des Anglais completely following the attack. Nobody is able to leave the area at the moment, Alain Marchall, the BFM correspondent at the site, reported.
“The promenade is closed, locked, as I am speaking. It is impossible to [gain] access. The police and private security have cordoned it off. We cannot move forward or go along Promenade des Anglais,” he said.
“I see residents who wonder how they can access their apartments, which is impossible at the moment.”
Prosecutors have launched an investigation into cases of “murder and attempted murder in an organized group linked to a terrorist enterprise.”
The anti-terrorist unit of the Paris Prosecutor's Office is being entrusted with the investigation of the attack.
Meanwhile, Francois Hollande has extended the state of emergency, which has been in place since November 2015 for another three months.
In response to the attack, France will recruit an extra 10,000 military police officers, Hollande says.
WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS
jss dans nice y'a des mouvements de foule de mutant on sait pas pk pic.twitter.com/ByXnaig0Qk— yannick (@yvnnick) July 14, 2016
‘Attack inspired by terrorists, impossible to detect by chasing terror groups’
The attack in Nice follows the pattern of other recent terror acts in Europe and was more likely inspired by the activities of terrorist groups than organized by them, former CIA officer and international lawyer Jack Rice told RT. He pointed out that this makes it extremely challenging to prevent such kind of attacks.
“There was a time when attacks were taking place directly from the likes of ISIL [Islamic State] or Al-Qaeda or others and you could follow the link, you would see what there were doing and there was a commanding control structure,” Rice said, adding that a “paradigm shift” is the real problem that both French and US authorities encounter.
“What you are seeing now frequently is attacks that are based on inspiration,” he argued.
“The problem with that is this new paradigm resolves with a lack of connection, with a lack of connecting the dots,” Rice added, saying that traditional way of investigating doesn’t work in these cases.
Stevan Gajic, researcher at the institute for European studies in Belgrade, weighed in on the broader consequences of the attack and the effect it might have on European security.
“Probably, ordinary people will be the victims. By ordinary people I mean ordinary Muslims that will unfortunately be targeted because of the general fear in European societies,” Gajic said, stressing that the attack will “only generate more fear” and curb freedom.
Speaking about the terrorists’ incentive and their repeated choice of France as a target, he pointed out that “France has been involved into a number of conflicts in the Middle East, starting from their very vocal support of bombing of Libya, has to do something with it.”
The rising terror threat could prompt the establishment of a common European army, a proposal already touted by some European leaders as of late, and unite Europe in the face of the common security challenge.
“There should be and there will be certainty a call for more security and this demand will be voiced by the people that fear for their lives and lives of their families, but also by the governments, and it might be used as a political tool for more cohesion of what is left of the European Union after Brexit,” Gajic said.
“We’ve recently heard calls for creating a European army, which also might come at a table,” he added.