Following the horrific attacks on Nice during Bastille Day this week, the Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility as five people believed to be involved are held in police custody. President Francois Hollande described the incident as a “terrorist” attack, when a hired lorry plowed through the crowds enjoying the Bastille Day fireworks display, along the Promenade des Anglais. According to reports from BBC, a total of 303 people have been hospitalised, 84 confirmed dead with 10 of those being children and adolescents. It is the third terror atrocity to sweep the nation in 18 months, and the fifth attack in just two years, bringing the death toll to a total of 234, with the numbers still rising.
The driver of the truck, identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel, was shot dead by police at the scene. Two arrests were made on Friday, and a further three on Saturday, including the man’s estranged wife, Le Monde reported. An Islamic State-run media outlet states that the attack was a call to target citizens of coalition countries fighting the Islamic State, further glorifying the driver as a “soldier” of the group. Police profiling of Bouhel revealed that though he held a criminal record for a violent altercation with a motorist, he was unknown to authorities as being a terror risk.
In the aftermath of the latest terror attack, France’s state of emergency, due to end July 26th, will extend for another three months. The attack calls for swift action and re-evaluate plans to deepen cooperation with police, security and the six intelligence agencies operating in France. Chessell, in his AFRWeekend report states the incident in Nice wasn’t the first time terrorists had used a vehicle to kill innocent civilians – extremists had driven through festive crowds in the cities of Dijon and Nantes prior to the mass shootings at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The incidences draw terrifying similarities with Nice and highlight the struggle French officials are facing to combat acts of domestic terrorism.
With presidential elections just mere months away, Marine La Pen – leader of right-wing anti-immigration National Front party is leading in the polls. The leader expressed her condolences on Friday to the families and relatives of the victims but heeded that “the war against the Islamic fundamentalism has not begun yet, now it is necessary to urgently declare it”. Across the country’s borders are inquiries urging EU leaders to absolve the European Project of open borders in light of France’s security challenges, on top of the EU’s struggle to handle its current refugee crisis from northern Africa and the Middle East. It is clear the attack in Nice has shattered any hope of curbing the “war on terrorism”.