84 Dead In Terrorist Attack At Bastille Day Celebration in France: 'There Was Carnage'
A truck plowed into a gathering of thousands attending Bastille Day celebrations in the popular French seaside city of Nice Thursday night, leaving 84 people dead in what the nation's president called "obviously a terrorist attack."
On Friday, French authorities confirmed 202 people were also injured, including 52 critically. Ten children were among the dead, Anti-terror Prosecutor Francois Molins said.
Witnesses said a white panel truck accelerated into crowds of pedestrians who were watching fireworks on the country’s national holiday, mowing through people as it zig-zigged down a major thoroughfare in the French Rivera town.
French President Francois Hollande, in an address Friday morning, local time, called the attack, "Such a monstrosity."
Hollande pledged to step up efforts to fight terror in Iraq and Syria, and extended a state of emergency for three months.
"France is deeply saddened, but it is also very strong," Hollande said. "I can assure you we will always be stronger than the fanatics who are trying to attack us."
The driver was reportedly shot dead by police after he jumped from the cab and opened fire as people ran screaming for their lives.
Some ran into the nearby Mediterranean Sea, seeking refuge in the water.
“There was carnage on the road. Bodies everywhere,” resident Wassim Bouhlel told The Associated Press. The wire service reported the truck was loaded with arms and grenades.
Nice Matin journalist Damien Allemand, who had been watching the fireworks display, saw the container truck approach.
"I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries, that I will never forget," he wrote.
Witnesses said the truck jumped curbs to get at pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais, which is near the beach. “We saw people hit and bits of debris flying around,” Agence France-Presse reported, quoting one of its journalists. “It was absolute chaos.”
The area had been cordoned off for the Bastille Day celebration. Somehow, the truck got past a roadblock and began accelerating as police on foot and on motorcycles began to give chase, videos from the scene show.
The city was placed on lockdown as investigators and first-responders tended to the scene and the injured. At least 100 people were said to be hurt.
Social media was full of gruesome images of twisted bodies and hundreds of running, panicked bystanders. French national police asked posters to stop putting up such photos out of respect for the victims' families.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility by terrorist groups, but French authorities said it was a deliberate attack. Jihadist groups have long advocated the use cars and motor vehicles as devices to be used in terror attacks.
France has suffered two terror attacks in the past 18 months. Last November, Paris was rocked by ISIS gunmen-suicide bombers who opened fire on cafes and in a concert hall, killing 130 people.
In January 2015, ISIS and al-Qaeda gunmen killed 17 people at the Charlie Hebdo satiric publication and a kosher market.
In the U.S., Donald Trump announced he was postponing his Saturday press conference concerning his vice presidential candidate “in light of the horrible attack in Nice, France.”
The White House said Thursday night that President Barack Obama had been informed of the attack and was receiving constant updates.
He issued a statement condemning "What appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery fro the many wounded."
Bastille Day is the French National Day, which celebrates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, beginning the French Revolution.