Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people in Nice by driving his truck into a crowd, had only one conviction: road rage.

What we know:

  • Truck ploughed into crowd in French city of Nice
  • At least 84 dead and many injured
  • Truck driver shot dead
  • President Francois Hollande declares three days of mourning
  • Reports of arms, explosives found inside the truck

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Saturday 16 Jul 2016
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people in Nice by driving his truck into a crowd, had only one conviction: road rage.
Described by his neighbours as a handsome but frightening man, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people in the French city of Nice by driving his truck into a crowd late on Thursday, was convicted only once before: for road rage...

French authorities were trying to determine on Friday whether a Tunisian who killed at least 84 people by plowing a truck into Bastille Day crowds had acted alone or with accomplices, but said the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamist militants.

Thursday night's attack in the Riviera city of Nice plunged France into new grief and fear just eight months after gunmen killed 130 people in Paris. Those attacks, and one in Brussels four months ago, have shocked Western Europe, already anxious over security challenges from mass immigration, open borders and pockets of Islamist radicalism.

The truck zigzagged along the city's seafront Promenade des Anglais as a fireworks display marking the French national day ended. It careered into families and friends listening to an orchestra or strolling above the Mediterranean beach towards the century-old grand Hotel Negresco.

People gather on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, as French detectives try to piece together the circumstances that left at least 84 people dead (AAP)

At least 10 children were among the dead. Of the scores of injured, 25 were on life support, authorities said on Friday.

Witness Franck Sidoli said he had watched people mown down before the truck finally stopped just five meters away from him.

"A woman was there, she lost her son. Her son was on the ground, bleeding," he told Reuters at the scene.

The driver, 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, shot dead by officers at the scene, was known to police for petty crimes but was not on a watch list of suspected militants. He had one criminal conviction, for road rage, and was sentenced to probation three months ago for throwing a wooden pallet at another driver.

The investigation "will try to determine whether he benefited from accomplices," Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said. "It will also try to find out whether Mohamed Laouaiej Bouhlel had ties to Islamist terrorist organizations."

"Although yesterday's attack has not been claimed, this sort of thing fits in perfectly with calls for murder from such terrorist organizations," Molins added.

Bouhlel's ex-wife was in police custody, Molins said. He had three children. Police found one pistol and various fake weapons in his truck.

 

Friday 15 Jul 2016

A gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84 people in what President Francois Hollande on Friday called a "terrorist" attack.

Hollande declared three days of mourning after the assault, as the shellshocked country found itself again mourning its dead after attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015 and the November 2015 massacre in Paris.

"France was struck on its national day ... the symbol of freedom," said Hollande in a sombre televised address in the early hours of Friday morning.

The attack was of an "undeniable terrorist nature", he said, confirming that several children were among the dead.

Read more here.

At least two children died and about 50 were hospitalised on Friday after a man smashed a truck into a crowd in the French Riviera city of Nice.

Two children died during surgery at a paediatric hospital close the scene of the attack, and others were "hanging between life and death," a hospital official said.

Around 50 children were being treated, the official said. Many families were among the revellers who attended the fireworks display for France's July 14 national holiday.

A US official has also said two US citizens were killed in the attack.

"At this time, we are aware of and can confirm two US citizens were killed in the attack in Nice on July 14, 2016," spokesman John Kirby said in a statement as US top envoy John Kerry was in Moscow for talks on Syria with his Russian counterpart.

"We express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those killed."

France has declared three days of national mourning from Saturday after at least 84 people were mown down by a truck while watching a Bastille Day fireworks display, the prime minister said.

Manuel Valls also told reporters that the government wants to extend the state of emergency which has been in force since the November 13 Paris attacks until October.

Flags will be flown at half-mast from Friday, and a law extending increased powers for the police will be put before parliament next week, he said.

"Times have changed, and France is going to have to live with terrorism, and we must face this together and show our collective sang-froid," he said.

"France is a great country and a great democracy and we will not allow ourselves to be destabilised," he added.

"We want to bring the French nation together. The only dignified response (to the attack) is for France to stick with the spirit of July 14, a France that is united around its values," he said.

Bastille Day is the country's national holiday and marks the start of the French Revolution in 1789.

It is celebrated with military parades and fireworks displays across the country, and is the traditional start of the holiday session.

The driver of the truck that smashed into a crowd watching fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing at least 84, has been formally identified, police sources said Friday.

He is a 31-year-old Franco-Tunisian man whose identity papers were found in the vehicle after the attack on France's July 14 national holiday.

Police have not yet released the attacker's name, but they said he lived in Nice. Other sources said previously he was already known to police for minor criminal offences.

Police shot the driver dead after he drove the truck two kilometres (1.3 miles) through a crowd along the palm-lined Promenade des Anglais.

Interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said 84 people were killed and scores injured, including 18 in "critical condition".

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday told his Russian counterpart in Moscow that the attack in the French city of Nice showed the need to speed up international efforts to tackle terrorism, especially in Syria.

Kerry, who late on Thursday had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that focused on the conflict in Syria, said their talks had been productive, as well as "extremely frank and very serious".

But a Kremlin spokesman said separately that Putin and Kerry had not directly discussed military cooperation between Moscow and Washington in Syria - the subject of a proposal that Kerry had brought with him to the Russian capital.

Dozens of people were killed on Thursday when a gunman drove a heavy truck at high speed into a crowd in Nice who were celebrating Bastille Day, France's national holiday. French authorities said it was a terrorist attack.

Referring to what he described as the "incredible carnage" in Nice, Kerry said nowhere was there a greater hotbed for terrorists than in Syria.

"I think people all over the world are looking to us and waiting for us to find a faster and more tangible way for them feeling that everything that is possible has been done to end this terrorist scourge and to unite the world in the most comprehensive efforts possible to fight back against their nihilistic and depraved approach to life and death," Kerry said as he began talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"And you and I and our teams are in enviable position of actually being able to do something about it."

On Thursday, the Washington Post published a leaked document it said Kerry would put forward in Moscow calling for intelligence sharing to identify leadership targets, training camps, supply lines and headquarters of the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.

It said strikes against those targets could be carried out by US or Russian jets and expanded coordination would be channeled through a Joint Implementation Group based in the vicinity of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Asked about this proposal on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said military cooperation had not been directly discussed at the meeting between Putin and Kerry, which lasted until the early hours of Friday morning.

"A lot of questions remain regarding real interaction in implementing operations in Syria," Peskov said.

Witnesses have spoken of people being skittled like ninepins when a gunman ploughed a heavy truck through Bastille Day revellers in the French city of Nice, leaving at least 84 dead and scores more injured.

The truck was loaded with weapons and grenades and swerved along the seafront as the driver opened fire before police shot him dead.

Authorities are working to determine whether the Tunisian-born Frenchman behind the attack had any accomplices.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message of condolences to his French counterpart Francois Hollande over mass killings in the French city of Nice, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.