French police secure the area as the investigation continues in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. (Reuters/Eric Gaillard)

Nice truck driver identified after Bastille Day attack leaves 84 dead, 202 injured in France: What we know so far

A 31-year-old French Tunisian man rammed a 19-ton truck into a crowd and opened fire in the French coastal city


Sophia Tesfaye
July 15, 2016 11:28PM (UTC)

Authorities in France have raised the death toll from the Bastille Day attack in France Thursday evening to 84 people, with 202 injured, and at least 52 critically injured .

The driver of the 19-ton truck that rammed through the miles-long thoroughfare along the beach has been identified as 31-year-old Nice resident and Tunisian national Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

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The attack took place at about 11 pm local time, shortly after fireworks on the Promenade des Anglais to celebrate the French national holiday ended. Bouhlel "drove along a distance of about two kilometers," hitting people and opened fire on the crowd before being killed by police, according to Nice officials.

"He was driving really slowly, that's what was astonishing," Richard Gutjahr, who described seeing the truck being tailed by a motorcyclist to the AFP. "The motorcyclist tried to overtake him and even tried opening the lorry driver's door," he said, explaining that motorcyclist was eventually hit by the truck. According to BBC, "when two police officers opened fire on the lorry, the driver accelerated and careered at full speed towards the crowd."

Foreign victims include two Americans, three Germans, one Russian, one Armenian, one Ukranian and one Swiss, Le Monde reported. According to initial reports, one of the first victims of the attack was Fatima Charrihi, a Muslim woman, a mother of seven and resident of Nice. 11-year-old Brodie Copeland of Lakeway, Texas, was killed along with his father, Sean. Wife Kim told Fox News told Fox News that the family was on vacation for her 40th birthday.

At least 10 of the dead are children, according to officials.

Three UC Berkeley students are among the injured, according to a statement from the University. "Nicolas Leslie, 20, one of the 85 UC Berkeley students attending the study abroad program nearby, is still unaccounted for."

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According to the regional Council for the Muslim Faith, at least 12 Muslim families in Nice are known to have lost loved ones.

Authorities are also releasing more information about the attacker.

Bouhlel was married with children, although according to reports he was in the process of a divorce and lived in a separate home from his family. Still, French authorities have taken his wife into custody for questioning.

"He was not a Muslim, he was a s***. He beat his wife, my cousin, he was a nasty piece of work," Bouhel's relative told the Daily Mail. "Bouhlel was not religious. He did not go to the mosque, he did not pray, he did not observe Ramadan. He drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs. This is all forbidden under Islam," Walid Hamou, a cousin of Bouhlel's wife said.

The attacker, who worked as chauffeur and truck driver, was convicted on assault-related charges earlier this year and the mayor of Nice told CNN that last he showed "signs of radicalization." However, national authorities claim that Bouhlel was completely unknown to intelligence officials and that initial investigations have found no record that he had been radicalized in any way.

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The 19-ton refrigerator truck he used for the attack was rented on July 11 in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, a town about six miles east of Nice, François Molins, the Paris prosecutor who oversees all terrorism investigations in France, said. From the New York Times

In the truck’s cabin, officials said, the police discovered an automatic 7.65 mm pistol, a cartridge clip, several used and unused 7.65 mm cartridges, as well as a fake automatic pistol, two fake assault rifles — a replica AK-47 and a replica M-16 — a grenade, a mobile phone and documents.

 

 

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President Obama made short remarks on Thursday's attack.

"This is a threat to all of us," the president said from the White House Friday. "On this Bastille Day, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world. And we know that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life."

Obama went on to slam suggestions to target Muslims, like that proposed by Newt Gingrich, as "repugnant":

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No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.


Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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