Former French President Francois Hollande told a special terrorism court on Monday that the man who drove a truck across a crowded seafront in Nice on Bastille Day six years ago, killing 86 people, was a terrorist who had gone undetected by security services when France was on high alert for extremist attacks following the Islamic State massacres in Paris.
Thousands of people filled Nice’s famous promenade on the Mediterranean coast on July 14, 2016, to celebrate France’s National Day.
Shortly after a fireworks display had ended, the truck swept through the crowd for two kilometers (1 ¼ mile) like a snow plow, ramming into person after person.
The final toll is 86 dead, including 15 children and adolescents, while 450 others were injured.
The attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian residing in France, was killed by police shortly afterwards.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage. However, French prosecutors said that while Bouhlel was inspired by the extremist group’s propaganda, investigators have found no evidence that IS orchestrated the attack.
Eight people are tried by a special anti-terrorist court in Paris accused of having helped Bouhlel to commit the attack. The trial opened on September 5 and is being broadcast live at a convention center in Nice for family members of victims not traveling to Paris for the proceedings.
Many survivors of the attack have given heartbreaking testimonies of the horrors and carnage they experienced on that Thursday night in summer 2016, and the shattered lives they have lived since.
Holland, the French president at the time of the attack, told the court on Monday he was celebrating in the nearby southern city of Avignon when he learned of the attack in Nice.
Prosecutors pressed him on the wisdom of public celebrations that year, as France reeled from the Islamic State attacks in Paris eight months earlier in which 130 people were killed.
“We made the decision to allow public celebrations to show that we continue to (enjoy) life,” Holland said.
Security measures have been tightened in all major cities, including Nice, as the threat of extremist violence remains high despite the Islamic State having been significantly weakened due to allied airstrikes on the group’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq, Holland said.
“The threat was still there, but it has changed,” Holland said, adding that authorities feared radicalized IS supporters who wanted to strike “with a knife or with a vehicle.”
Bohlel was one such individual, who remained “under the radar” when he drove his rental truck into a murderous rampage, Holland said, calling the attack an “act of terrorism”.
“A deliberate act to kill and kill as many people as possible, children and parents,” Holland said, adding that by striking on July 14, Bohlel had “declared war” on us. 0 The verdict of the trial is expected in December.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)