The man responsible for the Nice terror attack is “probably linked to radical Islam” as France mourns the third massacre of its civilians in 18 months.
Speaking on French television last night, French prime minister Manuel Valls said that, while he could not confirm the motives of 31-year-old attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, he could say he was “a terrorist probably linked to radical Islam one way or another”.
However, the claim is directly at odds with that of François Molins, the Paris prosecutor leading the investigation, who said Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was “totally unknown to intelligence services” and had no obvious links to radical Islam.
More than 200 people were wounded and 84 killed after the 31-year-old drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Of the 202 people injured, 25 are on life support and 52 in a critical condition.
An Irishman, understood to be from the west of Ireland, has been seriously injured in the attack. A number of Irish people are understood to have been in Nice during the attack and have been accounted for.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said it has particular concerns in relation to the welfare of one Irish citizen.
Father of three Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot dead after police surrounded the truck during the attack. He was known to police for domestic violence and delinquency.
He had received a suspended six-month prison sentence in March for a conviction for assault with a weapon during a road rage incident.
French police arrested Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s estranged wife yesterday and have also carried out searches of both his home and former marital home.
The latest attack has stunned a French nation already struggling to recover from the Paris attacks in November which killed 130 people in November and the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January of last year which left 17 dead.
French president François Hollande has extended the state of emergency imposed after last November’s Paris attacks for another three months but said France was stronger than those attempting to hurt its people.
“France has been hit by a tragedy once again. This monstrosity of using a lorry to deliberately kill people, many people, who only came out to celebrate their national day. France is in tears.
“It is hurting but it is strong, and she will be strong, always stronger than the fanatics who wish to hurt us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Irish government ministers overseeing the security of the State are at odds over the threat level of a terrorist attack in Ireland in the wake of the Nice attack.
Junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday expressed different opinions on the threat level here.
Mr Kehoe said yesterday that he thought the level of a terrorist threat against Ireland was “medium” with “no risk of any attack”.
However, a spokesperson for Ms Fitzgerald said last night that the threat level here was considered “low”.
Robert Greene, from Coolock in Dublin, was around three metres from the bloody carnage in Nice and spoke of the devastation he saw at the scene.
Clearly shaken by the incident, he told the Press Association: “I saw this truck and he cut through three or four people, he was already missing the bumper. It was horrific.
“A woman dropped to her knees, someone in her family had been killed, just lying there. There was not even a thing anyone could do, there was no CPR, bits of him were lying around. It was horrific.”
The barman added: “There was a young child’s plastic tricycle, smashed up and left in bits. I stayed on top of the stairs looking around. It was surreal.
“People screaming, children crying, young children running around the place alone, a woman on rollerblades screaming for her child.”
Former tánaiste Ray MacSharry was holidaying with his partner in the southern French city and had just finished dinner next to the promenade during the fireworks display when crowds began screaming.
Describing the hellish experience to the Irish Examiner, the former minister for finance said he was “lucky” to be alive.
“We were having dinner at Negrescos, at the promenade area, around the time of the fireworks display. Yards away, people were enjoying the fireworks.
“After finishing dinner, I was outside at the hotel door, checking out if there was a taxi to bring us back to our hotel we were staying in.
“The whole place was thronged with people. But then all of a sudden the main body of people erupted with horror,” he said.
Crowds of screaming people began running by Mr MacSharry and his partner and as they walked on there were injured people on the street, families weeping and worse.
“We started moving back towards our hotel, two kilometres away, in the direction of the airport. There were no taxis.
“And people began to roar and scream, there were horrific sounds and even gunfire. People were running in all sorts of directions.
“I saw dead bodies lying on the road. The truck had moved down towards the crowds of people.
“I witnessed distraught families weeping over their loved ones, dead on the promenade,” he said.
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