French government closes ranks on Nice policing claims

France’s government has closed ranks around interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, amid an intensifying dispute over allegations that his staff tried to alter a report into policing on the night of the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice.

Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said he had full confidence in Cazeneuve, who, on Sunday, dismissed an assertion by the head of Nice’s video surveillance that ministry staff pressured her to indicate the presence of national police-force officers at certain sites where the attack unfurled.

“This has to stop. There can be no room for doubt in the fight against terrorism,” Valls told BFM TV. “I don’t have any doubts about Bernard Cazeneuve.”

Valls’ Socialist government is under fire for not preventing a 31-year-old Tunisian from driving his rented truck through a crowd of revellers on a Nice beachfront boulevard, killing 84 people.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The ease with which Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel reached the pedestrianised Promenade des Anglais, in the 19-tonne truck, using an apparently unblocked route, has become a focus for criticism of security.

Ten months ahead of general elections, conservative politicians from Nice, led by regional government president, Christian Estrosi, have aggressively criticised the strength of the police force presence on the night of July 14.

Valls accused them of copying the tone of US Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, whose campaign has been marked by insults and inflammatory rhetoric, and which seeks to destabilise the government.

Responding to Cazeneuve’s Sunday night comments, Estrosi told Europe 1: “To insult elected officials is, in a way, to insult the memory of the victims. We are not instrumentalising anything, we are only demanding answers. The state has to stop obstructing the truth.”

Nice, a French Riviera city of 350,000 people, is France’s most heavily policed urban area and has an extensive network of surveillance cameras.

Sandra Bertin, head of the city’s CCTV camera network, told the Journal Du Dimanche that she had been harassed by an interior ministry official who wanted a report showing that national police could be seen at two particular sites — which she said could not be confirmed by CCTV footage.


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