Driver in France truck attack identified as local man

By Hajer M’tiri

PARIS (AA) – The attacker who killed at least 84 people in Nice was identified by local media Friday as a 31-year-old French-Tunisian who lived in the city.

The Nice-Matin newspaper did not name the man but said his identity documents were found in the truck that mowed down crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on Thursday night and his identity confirmed through fingerprints.

He was reported to be known to police for non-terror-related offenses. The newspaper said police were searching his home.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced a three days of national mourning from Saturday. “The goal of terrorists is to instill fear and panic but France is a great country and a great democracy that will not allow itself to be destabilized,” he said in televised remarks from Paris.

He added: “We want to achieve the unity of the nation. The only answer should be that of a united France.”

The prime minister said an extension to the state of emergency that has been in place since November’s attacks in Paris killed 130 would be discussed by the Cabinet and in parliament next week.

Before the Nice attack, it had been due to end on July 26 but will now run for a further three months.

After returning to Paris from Avignon in the south of France, President Francois Hollande held a security meeting at the Elysee Palace.

“France has been struck on the day of her national holiday — July 14, Bastille Day — the symbol of liberty, because human rights are denied by fanatics and France is clearly their target,” he said following the meeting.

The president said the terrorist nature of the attack “cannot be denied” and declared France was under threat from “Islamist terrorism”. The attack would “strengthen our efforts in Syria and Iraq against those who are attacking us on our very soil,” he added.

The attacker drove a white truck 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) through crowds of revelers who had been watching a fireworks display from the Promenade des Anglais.

Witnesses said the driver, who was killed in the attack, was zigzagging in an attempt to hit people and began shooting randomly after getting out of the truck. One told broadcaster BFMTV that he saw other men with guns in the truck. French authorities are working to determine if the attacker had any accomplices.

– 10 children killed

Le Figaro newspaper quoted security sources as saying that “several weapons, guns and grenades were found inside the truck.”

More than 150 have been injured in the attack including 54 children, according to Nice-Matin. Eighteen of the wounded are in a critical condition.

Other local media reported Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi as saying around 10 children were killed in the attack. He described the attack as “the worst tragedy in the history of Nice”.

Hollande is due to visit the Mediterranean city later Friday. He said the government had called up operational reserves to support gendarme and police forces and assist in controlling borders.

Counter-terrorism investigators from Paris have taken charge of the investigation.

Flags would be lowered across the city Friday, he added. Music events planned for Friday and Saturday have been cancelled.

The French Muslim Council condemned the attack “with the greatest vigor”.

“France has been hit yet another time by a terrorist attack of the utmost severity,” the council said in a statement, adding that the “odious terrorist act took aim at our country on the very day of its national holiday, a day which celebrates liberty, equality and fraternity”.

The council called for French Muslims to pray Friday for “the memory of the victims of this barbarian attack.”

Following the attack, Italy tightened security along its land border with France, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said. The center of Nice is 22 kilometers (14 miles) from the Italian border.

Germany’s Federal Police said security at airports and on the French border would be increased.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in a tweet that one Ukrainian had been killed in the attack and another injured while U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said a British national had been injured.