Paris, July 15 (IANS) At least 80 people were killed on Thursday night when a large truck mowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. French President Francois Hollande said the truck attack was of a ‘terrorist character’.
The driver shot into the crowd and then drove for 2 km along the pavement of the Boulevard des Anglais, the main street in Nice, mowing down people who had gathered to watch fireworks, regional President Christian Estrosi told CNN affiliate BFM-TV.
Police shot and killed the driver, said Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the French Interior Ministry. Police found firearms, explosives and grenades in the truck, Estrosi said, CNN reported.
The driver is suspected to be 31-year-old man of Tunisian origin. The identity papers of a French-Tunisian was found in Nice truck, reports said quoting police source.
According to reports, gunmen exchanged shots with police before plowing into the crowd of revelers. Footage captured by terrified bystanders fleeing from the scene has captured the sound of several gunshots being fired.
Over 150 people were also injured in the mayhem.
French President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls were in the inter-ministerial crisis cell after the attack.
A spokesperson for the Elysee Palace told EFE news agency that Hollande went to the crisis cell in the Ministry of Interior where Valls was to receive further information from Nice.
The President earlier cancelled his trip to Avignon in the south of the country to return hastily to Paris.
From 9 a.m. local time (0700 GMT), Hollande will preside over a security and defence council meeting with ministers and the main authorities in these matters, said the spokesperson for the Elysee.
Hollande had indicated hours before the Nice attack that the state of emergency declared immediately after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 would be lifted on July 26.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve will arrive at Nice in the coming hours, said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the spokesperson of Interior Ministry, adding that there was no hostage in the incident.
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama said in a statement that “we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice”.
“We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack,” Obama added.
The US president also showed his admiration for “the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world” and he is convinced that this character will “endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life.”