Tue, Jul 19, 2016 - Page 1 News List

France falls silent for victims of Nice truck rampage

FRAYED NERVES:Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed as he arrived and left a memorial gathering on the promenade in Nice where the attack occurred

AFP, NICE, France

People yesterday morning gather to observe a minute’s silence at noon in front of the Jardin Albert 1er on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in Nice, France, in tribute to the victims of the truck rampage on Thursday last week.

Photo: AFP

France fell silent yesterday for the victims of the Nice truck attack, but the mourning was overshadowed by politicians tearing into each other over the massacre.

A sea of people thronged the Nice promenade for the emotional minute’s silence just days after a Tunisian attacker drove a truck into a crowd at the same place on Thursday, Bastille Day, killing 84 people and injuring about 300.

Similar gatherings were held across the nation, with the minute’s silence accompanied by the ringing of church bells.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed and faced shouts of “resign” as he arrived and left the seaside promenade in Nice, in a sign of the anger and bitterness gripping France after its third major terror attack in 18 months.

French investigators have yet to find links between attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian, and the Islamic State group that claimed responsibility for Thursday’s carnage, French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.

He defended government efforts to halt terror attacks, calling for “dignity and truth” from fiercely critical opposition politicians as the national mood soured further nine months ahead of a presidential election.

France was wrapping up a three-day period of national mourning after Lahouaiej Bouhlel zigzagged a 19-tonne truck through a crowd of tourists, locals and families enjoying a fireworks display on Bastille Day.

“We must not move on too quickly. We need to exorcise our demons, to talk about it, to gather together,” said Philippe Gambino, who has visited the Promenade des Anglais every day since the attack, where candles and flowers form a makeshift memorial.

The attack came eight months after Islamic State militants killed 130 people across Paris, and 18 months after three days of terror at the Charlie Hebdo weekly and a Jewish supermarket killed 17.

Former French president and main opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday said that “everything that should have been done the past 18 months was not done.”

“We are at war, outright war. So I will use strong words: it will be us or them,” he said.

While previous attacks saw grand displays of national unity, there was no semblance of cohesion after the Nice massacre, with Sarkozy joining a long line of politicians who have accused the government of not doing enough to protect the French.

Cazeneuve described the bitter debate as “shameful.”

“Certain members of the political class have not respected the mourning period,” he said.

The frustration of the French was writ large in some of the messages left among flowers and tributes on Nice’s seafront.

“Enough with the speeches” and “Sick of carnage in our streets,” the messages read.

In Nice, many people were still desperately waiting for news of loved ones. Prosecutors said just 52 victims had been officially identified so far as they take painstaking measures to avoid errors of identification seen during the attacks in November last year.

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