The truck in the Nice, France terrorist attack was riddled with bullets. (Getty)
The gunman responsible for murdering up to 80 people by ramming into and shooting them at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France was identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.
Bouhlel was identified by numerous media sources, including the local newspaper, Nice-Matin.
Authorities unraveled the terrorist’s identity through papers found in the truck that he horrifically rammed into a mile-long crowd of people on July 14. UK Telegraph reported: “The truck driver was known to French police for common law crimes, according to police sources, but not to the intelligence services.”
The documents belonged to a 31-year-old French-Tunisian man, and authorities spent hours after the terrorist attack trying to determine if that man was the terrorist who drove the truck and then jumped out of it, shooting people with a pistol, AFP says. A newspaper in Nice, France is now confirming that an identity card found in the truck did match the terrorist’s body, CNN and The Independent said; that identity card is of the 31-year-old French-Tunisian man who may have dual citizenship.
Police raided the suspect’s home:
The terrorist was a resident of Nice, said SBS media. Tunisia has become a leading source of ISIS recruits, The Wall Street Journal has said.
The terrorist “is believed to have been a man who was known to security services,” said UK Express, although that account came before his identity was known.
The carnage – which included bodies scattered throughout the roadway, and a stuffed animal next to a body covered in plastic – was captured on many eyewitness video and photographs and posted widely on social media (warning: graphic):
“France has been struck on the day of her national holiday,” Bastille Day, a celebration of “liberty,” said French President Francois Hollande. “France as a whole is under the threat of Islamist terrorism, and so under these circumstances we have to demonstrate absolute vigilance and show determination that is unfailing.” Hollande said several children were among the dead.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Truck Carrying the Gunman Accelerated As it Plowed Into The Crowd & The Gunman Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,’ Reports Say
The truck in the Nice, France terrorist attack was riddled with bullets. (Getty)
The large box truck drove into the crowd at the Promenade des Anglais in the resort town of Nice, witnesses said. Nice’s past mayor, Christian Estrosi, who is now a regional official, initially said there “appeared to be dozens of deaths,” said NBC News.
Estrosi had Tweeted in French, according to NBC: “Dear Nice, the driver of a truck appears to have made dozens of deaths. Stay for the moment to your home. More info to come.” The death toll grew throughout the evening, though. A San Diego woman who witnessed the attack described it as a “pathway of bodies.”
UK Telegraph, citing Nice-Matin newspaper, said “The truck driver was said to have shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ — God is greatest — before being shot dead by police.” The UK Daily Mail also reported that detail.
The deadly attack – which started with a truck ramming a crowd of revelers and escalated when the gunman jumped out and started shooting, culminating when police shot him in or near a restaurant – killed up to 84 people and may have injured as many as 50, according to CNN and multiple other media accounts, citing French television. BBC reported that, in addition to the dead, “About 50 people were injured, 20 of them critically.”
The gunman drove “over a mile” through the crowd and accelerated as he did so, said CNN. Sebastien Humbert, a police official, told ITV.com, “A truck rammed into the crowd over a long distance, which explains this extremely heavy toll.”
The crowd of people had gathered to watch fireworks. President Barack Obama condemned what he said appeared to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”
2. Witnesses Reported That The Gunman Got Out of The Truck & Started Shooting & One of The First Victims Was a Muslim Woman
A soldier stands next to a dead body in Nice, France. (Getty)
Witnesses said the death toll rose because the truck’s driver then got out of the vehicle and started shooting at people (some early reports indicated there could be two gunman, but that claim seemed to evaporate as the chaos of the evening led to clearer information); Hollande said the truck’s driver was killed but authorities are investigating whether he had accomplices.
AFP reported that the “driver of Nice truck fired pistol before being shot dead.” People took to social media desperately seeking information on loved ones. By some estimates, the truck was traveling at 20-25 mph. Videos captured the aftermath of the attack. Warning: VERY graphic.
An eyewitness, Andrew Botros, of Edinburgh, Scotland, told NBC: “White truck literally racing through crowds of all ages. People either caught in path or forced to jump onto rocks over beach barrier. Some dead. Horrific.”
The New York Times also reported that the truck was “full of weapons and grenades,” quoting a French official. The Times said one of the first victims killed was a Muslim woman crushed by the truck (victims’ names have not yet been released):
Another eyewitness, Ryan Hubbs, told CNN that he saw people on the street who had “lost multiple family members. They weren’t sure what to do but waited for authorities, though that was very difficult for them.”
Smoke billowed from the Eiffel Tower in Paris:
However, French authorities assured people that the Eiffel Tower smoke was merely from the Bastille Day fireworks there (the people killed in Nice had also been watching fireworks).
Bastille Day is France’s national holiday and celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison during the 1789 French Revolution. NBC News reported that light arms and explosives were discovered in the truck. Hours later, though, UK Telegraph reported that an inactive grenade and fake rifles were in the truck.
3. Witnesses Posted Many Videos & Graphic Photos on Social Media
In a sign of how fast the news of tragedy moves in a social media and smart phone world, people in Nice immediately posted graphic videos and photos on Twitter and other social media, including some showing dead bodies strewn throughout the roadway. (Warning: Very graphic). Some captured the moment of attack:
Others captured different elements of it with photos and video:
Watch more videos from the attack here and see more photos here.
Others just provided eyewitness accounts. AFP correspondent Robert Holloway was celebrating on the Promenade des Anglais when the terrorist arrived. “He had to shield his face from flying debris as the truck plunged two kilometres (1.3 miles) along the palm-fringed beachfront, mowing people down in its wake,” reported AFP, quoting Holloway as describing the scene as “absolute chaos.”
4. The Gunman Was Shot To Death By a Police Officer After Rushing Into a Nearby Restaurant & People Jumped Into the Sea to Escape Gunfire
The scene in Nice, France. (Getty)
The UK Express, quoting French television iTele, said the gunman “holed up in a nice restaurant downtown” and had then been “neutralized” (meaning killed) by police. CNN reported that people in the restaurant rushed outside to cover the dead with white tablecloths and tend to the wounded. People jumped into the sea to escape the gunman.
“I saw people go down,” bystander Franck Sidoli, who was visibly shocked, told Reuters, according to The Independent. “Then the truck stopped, we were just five metres away. A woman was there, she lost her son. Her son was on the ground, bleeding.”
The truck’s windshield was riddled with bullet holes and its radiator grille was destroyed, said The Independent. French President Francois Hollande said one terrorist was dead and authorities were still investigating whether he had accomplices. Hours after the attack, “most of the bodies of 80 victims (according to the report prepared by the Interior Minister to 4 am)” still lay on the pavement of the Promenade des Anglais, said Nice-Matin, the local newspaper.
5. ISIS Supporters Online Applauded the Attack & Created a Celebratory Hashtag Online
ISIS supporters online immediately applauded the attack and even created a congratulatory hashtag they urged people to use, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Unconfirmed reports said ISIS supporters were “celebrating” the terrorist attack in Nice as “retaliation for the death of Abu Omar al-Shishani—the terror group’s so-called ‘minister of war.’” He was reportedly killed a few days before the Nice Attack in Iraq by Coalition forces.
Intel Site Group, which monitors Jihadist activity online, said that ISIS had posted a pro-#ISIS graphic of the Eiffel Tower with flames that “shows #ISIS commander, Shishani –reported killed yesterday” and says: “Blood of our leaders is light & fire.”
Al-Jazeera said of al-Shihani’s reported death: “The loss of the commander is a significant blow to the group, which has suffered a string of setbacks in Iraq this year.”