The “terrorist nature” of the attack late Thursday in Nice that left at least 84 dead “cannot be denied,” France’s President Francois Hollande said in a public televised statement early Friday.
The attack saw a truck driver plow his vehicle into a crowd as revelers left a traditional Bastille Day fireworks show on the beachfront.
The truck driver then fired a pistol several times before being shot dead by police, a local official said Friday.
“At the moment that he was shot dead by police, he had fired several times,” said president of the region Christian Estrosi.
A source close to the investigation said an “inactive” grenade was found inside the 19-ton truck, as well as “several fake rifles.”
Some 130 people were reported wounded.
According to the latest figures, which have been rising throughout the night as victims succumb to their wounds and police construct an ever clearer picture of the chaotic rampage, 18 people remain in critical condition.
According to Hollande, the death toll includes “several children.”
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve added early Friday that tourists were also among the dead, but did not offer details.
Israeli officials said Friday morning that no Israelis were known to have been at the site of the attack.
Israeli media reported that five Jewish residents of Nice were lightly hurt in the attack.
A statement from the Haredi rabbinic group Chabad identified one of the wounded by his Hebrew name, traditionally used in prayers for his recovery, as Moshe ben Yaakov.
“Counselors for Chabad’s Gan Israel day camp were also at the scene of the attack, having apparently crossed the street just moments beforehand, they narrowly missed the truck’s path of destruction,” said Chabad spokesman Rabbi Motti Seligson, in an email.
Authorities said early Friday that identity documents belonging to the truck’s driver were found in the vehicle. He was a 31-year-old French Muslim man of Tunisian descent.
The driver drove intentionally into a dense crowd that was leaving the celebration on the famed Promenade des Anglais, then stepped out of the vehicle and opened fire on passersby, according to police. The rampage was stopped in a hail of gunfire from police that left the truck itself riddled with bullets.
“We will continue to hit those who threaten us,” Hollande vowed in his address. The attacker, he said, acted “with the intention to kill, to crush and to massacre.”
“It is clear that we must do everything we can to fight against this scourge of terrorism.”
Noting that France had been “struck on the day of her national holiday — the 14th of July, Bastille Day — the symbol of liberty,” he explained this was because “human rights are denied by fanatics and France is clearly their target.”
France has faced a series of dramatic terror assaults by Islamist jihadist groups, many affiliated with Islamic State.
Earlier Thursday, hours before the Nice attack, Hollande had said he may act to end the state of emergency that was put in place since the November 2015 jihadist shooting rampage in Paris in which 130 were killed. The state of emergency was due to expire on July 26.
In his statement early Friday, he reversed that decision, saying he’d extend his government’s emergency powers by another three months.
Nice regional government head Estrosi took to Twitter late Thursday to express the shock felt in the city, which he said had just suffered its worst-ever disaster.
“Tomorrow, the city’s flags will be at half-mast,” he tweeted early Friday.
The city also canceled a concert by American pop superstar Rihanna at the city’s Allianz Riviera stadium scheduled for Friday, as well as a five-day jazz festival set to begin Friday.
Dès demain les drapeaux de la ville seront en berne. Après l'annulation du concert de Rihanna, le festival du jazz est annulé.
— Christian Estrosi (@cestrosi) July 15, 2016
Hollande had returned to Paris from a trip to the southern city of Avignon shortly after receiving news of the attack. From Paris, he oversaw the emergency operations center established by the Interior Ministry in the wake of the attack.
A few hours before Hollande’s announcement, US President Barack Obama also said the massacre appeared to be a “horrific terrorist attack.”
“On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians,” Obama said.
“I have directed my team to be in touch with French officials, and we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice,” Obama added in a statement released by the White House.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, but French prosecutors said the investigation was handed over to the same officials who dealt with jihadist terror attacks.
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