Nick Gutteridge — The Daily Express July 14, 2016
French officials have confirmed that they are investigasting a terrorist attack and there are unconfirmed reports that there are gunmen on the loose in the city. French TV channel iTele tonight reported that a gunman “holed up in a nice restaurant downtown” had been “neutralized” by police.
The channel said it is not believed the man had taken any hostages during the incident. The man is believed to have been in the lorry with the driver and fled on foot to a restaurant called Le Buffalo nearby, where he was killed by an officer with a handgun.
On the promenade it is thought that police officers desperately fired on the truck as it was “deliberately driven” for more than 100 metres at people leaving a major bank holiday fireworks celebration.
Witnesses said the truck picked up speed and “rammed” the crowd where it was thickest at more than 30mph, and images emerged of the cab riddled with bullets. One said he saw the driver emerge with a gun after the truck came to a halt and begin shooting at the fleeing crowd.
Police have identified the driver, who was killed during the incident, and it is believed to have been a man who was known to security services. Separate reports emerged tonight that police fear four different trucks are involved, raising fears of a massive organised terror attack.
Crowds had packed out the city’s main promenade to watch a fireworks display marking Bastille Day, a major public holiday in France, and were beginning to head home when the lorry hit.
One witness reported horrific scenes with “dead bodies everywhere” and distressing video footage emerged of people fleeing the Promenade des Anglais, in the southern French city, in terror.
And pictures posted on social media, far too graphic to publish, showed bodies strewn across the road in a scene of total devastation. The world-famous promenade, next to Nice’s stunning sandy beach, is one of France’s top tourist spots.
One eyewitnessed raised fears that the incident “had to be planned” and others said the driver of the truck had deliberately chased down and run over people attempting to flee the scene.
They said: “I’m in Nice and cannot describe the situation – scary awful. Dead bodies everywhere people killed in front of my eyes. Had to be planned.”
A group of students who were on the Promenade des Anglais at the time of the incident.
One of them, Anthony, said: “The fireworks ended, and we went back.
“At that time we saw the white truck. A 6 tonne truck. It was speeding at 60 km/h, 70km/h.
“I saw behind the wheel, the driver was deciding which way it was heading. The truck rolled on to the pavement.
“It happened two meters from us. I saw people lying on the ground, I saw a small child hit the earth.”
A reporter for the Nice Matin newspaper who was covering the celebrations added: “There are people in blood, probably full of wounded.”
One eyewitness, Wassim Bouhlel, said he saw the driver emerge from the truck after it came to a halt and start shooting at the crowds.
He said: “There was carnage on the road. Bodies everywhere.”
But Sylvie Toffin, a press officer with the local prefecture, said the truck “hit several people on a long trip” however added that “to my knowledge” there was no gunfire.
She also confirmed that the incident was “an attack” but said she did not have casualty figures.
Local paper Nice Matin posted a photograph online of the white truck riddled with bullets, suggesting that police fired at the driver as it careered into the crowds. Christian Estrosi, the head of the Nice prefecture, has confirmed the death toll is in the dozens and has urged people to stay in their homes.
A witness told the paper: “We had just crossed the road and there was a huge crowd of people. We were returning and we heard ‘boom, boom, boom’ and we saw a lorry on the promenade which ploughed right through.
“My son was there right next to it. It hit where the crowd was thickest and was travelling very quickly – about 50km per hour (31mph).”
Another witness said: “He drove over everyone, everyone is bleeding. There are loads of people injured without doubt.”