Truck attack in Nice: No national police present, French govt admits

French police continue their investigation as they work near the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais killing 80 people in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. © Eric Gaillard
After critical newspaper reports, France’s interior minister has acknowledged there was no national police presence at the entrance to Nice’s main walkway during the Bastille Day truck attack, backtracking on previous statements.

The entrance through which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove his truck before going on a rampage that claimed 84 lives was guarded only by the municipal police, who are more lightly armed, Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement.

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The acknowledgement came after several critical reports in the French media, which said there were serious security lapses in Nice despite France being on alert in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Libération on Wednesday accused Cazeneuve of lying about the security at the entryway. Citing footage and witness accounts, it said the site was guarded by two municipal police officers and one patrol car, which didn’t block the road. The minister earlier claimed that the national police had blocked the entry to the pedestrianized promenade by stationing two vehicles at a check point along with six officers.

Just days after the attack, former Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi said the number of officers deployed in the city during the Bastille Day celebration was “a far cry from” what the government claimed it to be. The figure voiced by Paris was 64 national police, 42 municipal police and 20 army soldiers. Estrosi, whose tenure expired last month, described the statement as “government lies.”

Facing criticism from the media and the political opposition, Cazeneuve ordered an inquiry by the Inspection Generale de la Police Nationale into the security situation in Nice on July 14.

"This investigation will enable us to establish the facts around the operation while the needless debates continue," Cazeneuve said on Thursday.

However he dismissed the Libération article, saying that the newspaper was indulging in conspiracy theories.

During the July 14 celebrations Bouhlel, a legal French resident of Tunisian origin, drove a 19-ton truck for 2km along the pedestrian Promenade des Anglais, zigzagging in an apparent attempt to kill more people. Police ultimately stopped the vehicle and killed the perpetrator. The attack resulted in 84 people killed and over 200 injured.