As it happened: 202 injured, 25 on life support after Nice attack, says French prosecutor Molins

Jul, 15 2016 IST

  • 11:13 (IST)

    Death toll in Nice attacks

     

    84 killed, 14 in critical condition in the attacks that took place on late Thursday night on Bastille Day in Nice, France. Over 150 people have been injured.

  • 22:07 (IST)

    What we know so far

     

    • A Tunisian living in France drove a large truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day along Nice's beachfront, killing at least 84 people, many of them children, according to police and hospital officials. The slaughter ended only after police killed the armed attacker in a hail of bullets.

     

    • 202 people were wounded in the attack, with 25 on life support and 52 in critical condition. Among the dead were 10 children and teens, according to French prosecutor Molins.

     

    • Police identified the attacker as Mohamed Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Nice resident, and said he had drawn a gun on them. The truck's front windshield was riddled with bullets.

     

    • The attacker, Bouhlel, was reported to have had a history of threats, violence and petty theft, according to Molins, from 2010 to 2016, and had been sentenced this year to six-months in prison for a road rage incident.

     

    • Victims include foreign nationals from France, Germany, United States, Switzerland, Morocco, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Tunisia.

     

    • No group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, but French officials called it an "undeniable act of terror". Hollande said that it was not clear whether the driver had accomplices, while The Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation for "murder and attempted murder in an organised group linked to a terrorist enterprise."

     

    • Flags were lowered to half-staff in Nice, Paris, Brussels and many capitals across Europe. Hollande announced a three-month extension to the state of emergency imposed after the 13 November attacks on Paris that killed 130 victims and the government declared three days of national mourning to begin on Saturday.

     

    With inputs from agencies

     

  • 21:41 (IST)

    No Indian affected in Nice attack: MEA

     

    No Indian is reported to have been affected in the Nice attack, confirmed the External Affairs Ministry. 

     

    "I have spoken to our Ambassador in France Shri Mohan Kumar. He has again confirmed that all Indians are safe," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

     

    Earlier, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said "Our Ambassador in Paris is in touch with the Indian community in Nice. So far no report of any Indians affected."

     

    With inputs from PTI

  • 21:35 (IST)

    Attack in line with jihadist calls to action: prosecutor

     

    The truck attack, which killed 84 people at a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, is exactly in line with jihadist calls to action, French anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins said on Friday.

     

    Molins, who is leading the investigation into the massacre in Nice, said what had happened was "exactly in line with the constant calls to kill" which jihadi terror groups make in videos and elsewhere.

     

    With inputs from AFP

  • 21:27 (IST)

    Scottish couple reported missing at Nice

     

    A Scottish couple has been reported as missing after the attacks in Nice, reports AP.

     

    Family members said that they have been unable to locate 27-year-old Carole Annie Cowan and 30-year-old Ross Cowan after the attack. The couple was on holiday in Nice at the time.

     

    Carole Annie Cowan's sister Amy Stanton said she has asked Britain's Foreign Office for help and has also posted an urgent appeal for aid on Facebook.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 21:02 (IST)

    Attacker was known to French police 

     

    Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man behind the Nice truck attack, was known to the police, reports Al Jazeera.

     

    French prosecutor Francois Molins also echoed the same view, that Bouhlel was known to police and the courts, but unknown to intelligence officials.

     

    With inputs from AFP

  • 20:46 (IST)

    Nice truck attacker's wife arrested for questioning

     

    The Nice attacker's wife has been arrested for questioning, says Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, in a statement to the media. He added that 202 people were wounded in the Nice truck attack, 25 are on life support and 52 in critical condition. Among the dead were 10 children and teens.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 20:43 (IST)

    'Driver rented truck'

     

    Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who is currently addressing the media says "driver rented the truck and hit people. A bank card, mobile phone and a grenade were all found in the truck."

  • 20:40 (IST)

    Paris prosecutor Francois Molins addresses media

     

    "We will provide psychological and social help for the victims. I would like to thank state services, doctors and firemen for their help," says Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, in a statement to the media.

  • 20:08 (IST)

    UN Security Council holds moment of silence for Nice attack victims

     

    UN Security Council envoys observed a moment of silence on Friday for the victims of the Bastille Day attack in Nice that left at least 84 dead, including many children.

     

    The council chamber fell silent as ambassadors rose to their feet and bowed their heads at the start of a meeting called to discuss the situation in Iraq.

     

    The 15-member council unanimously condemned the killings in a statement late Thursday, calling it a "barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack" and reaffirming that terrorism is one of the leading threats to world security.

     

    French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters ahead of the meeting that there had been many expressions of support to France in the aftermath of the attack.

     

    With inputs from AFP

  • 19:48 (IST)

    Ex-wife of France truck attack suspect held for questioning

     

    AFP reports that the ex-wife of France truck attack suspect has been held for questioning, according to the police.

     

    With inputs from AFP

     

  • 19:44 (IST)

    Tourist camera captures Nice attack

     

    A German tourist Richard Gutjahr said he could hear angry shouts outside and saw a big white truck rolling slowly down a road supposed to be blocked off as a party zone. He picked up his camera — and captured a key moment in the terrible path of the Nice attack.

     

    Gutjahr's footage, which was filmed from a first-floor hotel balcony, shows the truck chased by police officers. An unidentified motorcyclist pulls alongside the truck, leaps off his vehicle and clings to the door of the truck in a bid to stop the attacker. The motorcycle is partly crushed under the truck's tires as the motorcyclist, possibly a police officer, clings on and Gutjahr sees two other officers on foot take aim and fire individual shots at the truck's windscreen.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 19:34 (IST)

    Hollande at Pasteur Hospital

     

    The Élysée, which is the official residence of the President of the French Republic, has put out pictures of Hollande meeting hospital staff in Nice.

     

     

  • 19:27 (IST)

    Police raided Nice attack suspect's old address, say neighbours

     

    Several neighbors at the address listed for the man identified as the truck driver, who killed dozens of people in Nice, said police officers raided the 12th floor apartment earlier on Friday, but that the man had not lived there in three years.

     

    The neighbours added that the apartment was occupied by the man's estranged wife, who was led away by authorities. The apartment showed visible signs of having been forced in, including a hole where the lock had been.

     

    Four young men inside the apartment told The Associated Press they were family of the wife, who they said was divorcing her husband.

     

    The family members and the neighbors refused to identify themselves.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 19:23 (IST)

    Dallas hotel pays tribute

     

    A hotel in Dallas has lit up in blue, white and red, the colours of the French flag, as a tribute to the victims of the truck attack in Nice, France.

     

    With inputs from AP

     

  • 19:13 (IST)

    Victims include foreigners, children

     

    French President Francois Hollande said Friday that "many foreigners" were among those killed or injured in a truck attack on a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice.

     

    "There are French among the victims and also many foreigners from every continent and many children, young children," said Hollande in a speech from a hospital in the French Riviera city.

     

    With inputs from AFP

  • 18:51 (IST)

    'Whole world watching us'

     

    Hollande in his statement after the Nice attack said that the government would continue to ensure protection to the French people. "In this fight we must rely on the commitment of the forces. Whole world is watching us once again and expressing solidarity, friendship. They know we are a strong country."

     

  • 18:49 (IST)

    'An extraordinary job' 

     

    "Firemen have done an extraordinary job. Thanks to the staff of the hospital who have showed exemplary devotion," Hollande said in his statement to the media, after visiting a hospital in Nice. 

     

    He also added that hospital staff came in the middle of the night to save lives and that their service was exemplary.

  • 18:47 (IST)

    'Commitment to courage'

     

    "There's the commitment to courage by the security forces who had taken all the steps to make sure the fireworks display was protected. The forces were committed to neutralise the assassin. I still have in mind the policemen who acted so the killer could be removed," Hollande, who was looking sombre and flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, said after a visit to a hospital in Nice.

  • 18:45 (IST)

    Francois Hollande addresses media in Nice

     

    President Hollande says that 84 people are dead and 50 people are oscillating between life and death. "A lot of people will bear this trauma for the rest of their lives."

  • 18:33 (IST)

    National Front leader calls for war against Islamic fundamentalism

     

    Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, extended her condolences to the families and friends of victims of the attack that struck Nice. "My support also goes to all those, including children, who, injured or spared, lived the horror and will be permanently marked," she said.

     

    "We should see a succession of terrorist attacks and count the dead now without action," she added.

     

    She said that "the war against the scourge of Islamic fundamentalism has not started, it is urgent now to declare. We really commit by implementing a series of measures that I have already detailed, which I shall have occasion to return, designed to tackle the source of the phenomenon."

     

  • 18:22 (IST)

    Interpol Response Team deployed to Nice

     

    An Interpol Incident Response Team is being deployed to Nice to provide disaster victim identification assistance, the organisation's Twitter account said.

  • 18:15 (IST)

    Facebook helps find baby lost in Nice attack

     

    An eight-month-old baby boy lost in the chaos after the Nice attack, has been tracked down through Facebook on Friday.

     

    Tiava Banner  who said she was not the mother of the baby  sent out an appeal on Facebook looking for any information on the whereabouts of the child who had been lost in his blue stroller, when the rampaging truck sent hundreds fleeing in panic as they watched Bastille Day fireworks.

     

    The post was shared thousands of times until it was updated with: "Found! Thank you Facebook and all those who helped us."

     

     

    Dozens of other people appealed through social media to find missing loved ones.

     

    With inputs from AFP

     

  • 18:10 (IST)

    Nice airport reopens

     

    The alert at the Nice airport has been lifted with passengers who had been evacuated being allowed back into the terminal to pick up their bags.

     

    The airport's website showed flights leaving and landing as usual. In a message posted to the site's home page, the airport said: "Despite the dreadful events that occurred, access to the airport and Air traffic won't be disrupted."

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 18:09 (IST)

    Tour de France to continue as planned 

     

    The Tour de France rode on as planned Friday, with thousands of fans lining the roads and amid reinforced security a day after the deadly attack in Nice.

     

    The carnage did not deter fans from showing up in numbers at the starting line in the small town of Bourg-Saint-Andeol.

     

    There was a moment of silence at the start, several hours drive from Nice. Tour director Christian Prudhomme said there will be a ceremony, with a minute's silence at the finish as a tribute to the victims.

     

    "Today, we want to pay homage to the victims with dignity," said Prudhomme, wearing a black armband around his blue shirt and holding back tears. "We have been asking ourselves if the race should continue and after consulting with authorities we have decided that it should. The Tour de France will continue in a subdued and solemn manner."

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 18:00 (IST)

    World leaders express horror at attack; sympathy for France

     

    United States: President Barack Obama said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed."

     

    Britain: Prime Minister Theresa May called for nations to "redouble" efforts to defeat violent extremists, following the attack in Nice and also said that Britain will stand with France in its time of mourning.

     

    Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged solidarity with France in the aftermath of the attack. Merkel, who was speaking on the sidelines of a summit in Mongolia, said, "I am completely convinced that we will win this fight despite all difficulties."

     

     

    Russia: President Vladimir Putin said he was "shocked by the violence and exceptional cynicism" of Thursday's attack in Nice and sent condolences to French President Francois Hollande, saying that terrorism can be defeated only if "all civilised mankind pulls efforts together" to fight militants, their leaders as well as targeting their financial backers "wherever they are hiding."

     

    Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack shows "terrorism has no religion, race or nationality. We need to see that for the terror organizations, there is no difference between Turkey and France, between Iraq and Belgium, between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

     

    With inputs from AP

     

  • 17:53 (IST)

    UN chief calls for stepping up efforts to fight terrorism after Nice attack

     

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the Bastille Day attack in the French city of Nice. He called for intensified efforts to confront terrorism and violent extremism.

     

    A UN statement quoted Ban as saying that he "stands firmly behind the French government and people as they confront this threat and stresses the need to intensify regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism". Ban also offered condolences to the victims' families after "this horrific act" and wished a speedy recovery to the many injured.

     

    He further expressed hope that "all those responsible for this massacre will be rapidly identified and brought to justice".

     

    With inputs from AFP

  • 17:44 (IST)

    Evacuation in progress at Nice airport

     

    Passengers have been ordered out of Nice Airport, according to an AP reporter, who is at the scene. The terminal building has been reportedly sealed off and military personnel are visible inside.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 16:54 (IST)

    Foreign nationals killed in Nice attack

     

    Following up on our earlier update, the foreign ministries of Armenia and Ukraine say two Armenians and one Ukrainian were killed in Thursday's attack in Nice.

     

    The foreign ministry of Armenia says two of its citizens were killed.

     

    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says one Ukrainian was killed, but the ministry would not identify the victim citing the family's right to privacy. Two Ukrainians have been injured.

     

    Switzerland's foreign ministry says a Swiss woman was killed, but declined to provide further details for privacy reasons.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 16:46 (IST)

     

    Hollande and Valls arrive at Nice

     

    French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have both arrived in Nice by plane. The pair posed with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on the airport tarmac in a show of solidarity.

     

    The three politicians met with security officials before driving off.

     

    Cazeneuve was the first to travel to the scene of the massacre that left at least 84 dead.

     

    With inputs from AP

  • 16:36 (IST)

    Russian, Armenian and Ukrainian victims as well

     

    Le Monde reports that a Russian, an Armenian and a Ukrainian were also killed in the Nice terror attack.


     

  • 15:56 (IST)

    Two Americans killed in attack

     

    US State Department The State Department announced that two Americans were killed in the bombing in Nice.
     

  • 15:47 (IST)

    In light of Friday's terror attack, read our in-depth series on 'Islamist terrorism'

     

    Part one:Products of targeted violence, terrorists are not criminals or psychopaths

     

    Part two:Terror attacks and perils of emotive criticism: Why we must not delink religion and terror

     

    Part three:Terrorism is not just religion: Decoding the socio-political setups within Islamic State

  • 15:37 (IST)

    Belgium beefs up security ahead of national day celebrations

     

    Belgium will beef up security for next week's national day celebrations after the truck attack in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day, Prime Minister Charles Michel said Friday.

     

    The country is already on high alert after terror attacks in March claimed by the Islamic State group on Brussels airport and on the city's metro system left 32 people dead.

     

    "We are determined to show that democracy is stronger than the terrorists," Michel told a news briefing in Brussels.

     

    "We of course intend to take extra measures for events linked to the national holiday (on 21 July)," Michel said.

     

    Michel said that despite the Nice attacks Belgium was keeping its terror alert level at the second-highest level of three, which means a threat is possible and likely.

     

    Belgian authorities had previously anticipated a possible truck-style attack before the Nice carnage, in which at least 84 revellers were killed, Michel added.

     

    "Without revealing our plans, we were already wary to the idea of this type of scenario," Michel said.

     

    Several of those involved in the Brussels bloodshed were directly linked to the November attacks in Paris which left 130 dead.

     

    Belgian authorities last month charged two men with terrorist offences amid reports of a planned attack on a Euro 2016 fanzone in central Brussels.

     

    AFP

  • 15:33 (IST)

    London Mayor assesses security levels in the wake of Nice attacks

     

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Friday he was reassessing security levels in the British capital in the wake of the Bastille Day attack in Nice.

    Offering his sympathies to the people of Nice over the "unspeakable act of terror on a day of celebration", Khan said: "Today we will be reviewing our own safety measures in light of this attack."

    Speaking during a visit to Gatwick Airport he added: "Londoners today stand united with Nice and all of France in our grief.

    "They will not win. Not in France, not in London, not anywhere.

    "We will defeat their poisonous and twisted ideology."

    While Paris and Brussels have both suffered devastating jihadist attacks in the past year, Britain has been spared a major assault since the July 2005 bombings in London's public transport system.

    After the November attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed, English football fans attending a France-England game memorably sang the French national anthem the Marseillaise to show solidarity with their neighbours.

     

    AFP

  • 15:19 (IST)

    Truck driver identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel


    According to the Independent, the man who killed more than 80 people with a truck in Nice has been locally identified.

     

    Citing local sources, the driver of the truck has been identified by local newspaper Nice-Matin as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who is from Nice.

     

    After finding id cards in the truck the police had said that they had formally identified the man. He killed 84 people on Thursday night during Bastille day celebrations. He had been shot down by the police at the end of the attack.

  • 14:59 (IST)

     Children's hospital treats about 50 kids.

     

    The children's hospital in Nice says it has treated some 50 children and adolescents injured in the truck attack, including two who died during or after surgery.

     

    Stephanie Simpson, the communications director for the Lenval foundation hospital, tells The Associated Press that injuries included fractures and head injuries and that the victims were aged 18 or under.

     

    In a phone interview, she said: "Some are still life and death."

     

    She said she could not say exact number of children hospitalized or the ages of those who died.

     

    The hospital is also offering psychological counselling to parents and siblings.

     

    The hospital, equipped with one of France's largest pediadiatric emergency units, also called the families of children it was already treating before the attack to ask them to pick up their children to free up rooms for the attack victims.

     

    AP

  • 14:37 (IST)

    Top Sunni Muslim body urges unity to defeat 'terrorism' after Nice

     

    Sunni Islam's leading seat of learning Al-Azhar on Friday condemned a deadly truck attack in Nice on France's national holiday, urging unity to "rid the world" of "terrorism."

     

    "These vile terrorist attacks contradict Islamic teachings," the Cairo-based institution said in a statement after Thursday evening's attack, which killed at least 84 people and wounded scores more.

     

    "Al-Azhar... affirms the necessity of uniting efforts to defeat terrorism and rid the world of its evil."

  • 14:19 (IST)

    Channels supportive of IS celebrate Nice killings
     

    Shortly after a trucker mowed down at least 84 people in this French city, news channels supportive of the Islamic State cheered the carnage, The New York Times reported on Friday.

     

    On one channel created on Thursday and called the United Cyber Caliphate, a message included a single word - France - followed by a smiley face.

     

    The United Cyber Caliphate is run by a group that has previously tried to carry out cyber attacks in the Islamic State's name, the Times said.

     

    Another suspected pro-IS channel showed an image of the Eiffel Tower going up in flames.

     

    There was, however, no word of claim to the Nice attack from the Islamic State, the Times said.

     

    "It typically takes the Islamic State several hours, and sometimes up to one and even two days, to assert responsibility for attacks in Western countries," the daily said.

     

    "It typically does so through its Amaq channel on the encrypted telephone app Telegram, which serves as the group's news wire."

     

    IANS

  • 14:14 (IST)

    Three-day national mourning

     

    France declares three-day national mourning after truck attack:  Manuel Valls, French PM

  • 14:11 (IST)

    Attacks aren't prepared alone: Christian Estrosi, regional president in Nice

     

    Christian Estrosi, the regional president in Nice, said some of the city's 1,200 security cameras had pinpointed the moment the attacker boarded the truck, far from the seaside "in the hills of Nice" and could follow his path to the promenade. Estrosi called for the investigation to focus on any accomplices.

     

    "Attacks aren't prepared alone. Attacks are prepared with accomplices," Estrosi said. "There is a chain of complicity. I expect it to be unveiled, discovered and kept up to date."

     

    Estrosi said more than 10 children were among the dead and he said France needed to think carefully about its next response to attacks, as previous responses were not enough to protect the people.

     

    AP

  • 14:04 (IST)

    Here are the major attacks that took place in France between 2015 and 2016

  • 13:59 (IST)

    Muslim, Gulf leaders condemn Nice attack

     

    Leading Muslim clerics joined Gulf Arab leaders on Friday in condemning a truck attack that killed at least 84 revellers in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on France's national holiday.

     

    Egypt's top Muslim cleric Shawki Allam condemned the assailant as an "extremist" who "follows in the footsteps of the devil."

     

    "Islam never called for the spilling of blood," Allam said in a statement.

     

    "People who commit such ugly crimes are corrupt of the earth, and follow in the footsteps of Satan... and are cursed in this life and in the hereafter."

     

    The six Gulf Arab states issued a joint statement saying that they "strongly" condemned the "terrorist" act in Nice.

     

    "The Gulf Cooperation Council states stand in solidarity with the French republic following this cowardly criminal incident whose perpetrators have been stripped of all moral and human values," the bloc's secretary general, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said.

     

    Regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia issued its own statement condemning the "heinous terrorist" act, adding that it stands in "solidarity" with France and will "cooperate with it in confronting terrorist acts in all their forms."

     

    United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: "This heinous terrorist crime makes it imperative for all to work decisively and without hesitation to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

     

    Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of a US-led coalition which has carried out an air war against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria alongside France.

     

    AFP

  • 13:49 (IST)

    Among the first to die in Nice attack was Muslim woman

     

    A middle-aged Muslim woman was among the first to be killed when a trucker mowed down 84 people here in a terror attack.

     

    The woman was run over by the speeding white truck on the sidewalk next to Lenval beach during Bastille Day celebrations on Thursday night. She was killed instantly.

     

    The New York Times reported on Friday that two of her sons and other family members stood weeping or frozen in stunned silence around her body that was covered in a pale blue tartan blanket.

     

    The man who drove the truck through thousands massed at the beachfront is believed to be a French citizen of Tunisian origin. French authorities have called it a terror attack.

     

    IANS

  • 13:38 (IST)

    Tour de France stage goes ahead, festivities off due to terror attack

     

    Friday's 13th stage of the Tour de France will go ahead despite the terror attack which killed at least 84 people in Nice on Thursday night, Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

    But the publicity caravan that precedes the Tour along each stage route will be silent in memory of the terror attack victims.

    A minute's silence will also be held on the victory podium as a mark of respect, added Prudhomme.

     

    AFP

  • 13:37 (IST)

    Bastille Day attacker formally identified

     

    Police sources say that the France truck attacker has been formally identified.

  • 13:25 (IST)

    Nice attack suspect: What we know

     

    Reportedly, the suspect, whose name appears on a document found in the truck, is a Tunisian national born in 1985, resident of Nice and having a residence permit. It seems that he fired his 7. 65 when the police tried to intercept him. He was shot by two peacekeepers of the specialized field brigade.

     

    As reported by Le Monde, a French publication

  • 13:14 (IST)

    Fresh details on the attack

     

    According to local media, the driver of the truck managed to get to the Promenade Des Anglais after claiming he was delivering ice cream.

  • 13:01 (IST)

    Watch: Aftermath of the truck attacks

  • 13:00 (IST)

    Russia extends solidarity

     

    Russia 'in solidarity' with France over Nice attack: Kremlin

     

     

     

Nice: A truck loaded with weapons and hand grenades drove onto a sidewalk for more than a mile, plowing through Bastille Day revelers who'd gathered to watch fireworks in the French resort city of Nice late Thursday. At least 77 people were killed before police killed the driver, authorities said.

Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre described a horrific scene, with bodies strewn about along the roadway and Sylvie Toffin, a press officer with the local prefecture, said the truck ran over people on a "long trip" down the sidewalk near Nice's Palais de la Mediterranee, a building that fronts the beach.

Wassim Bouhlel, a Nice native who spoke to AP nearby, said that he saw a truck drive into the crowd. "There was carnage on the road," he said. "Bodies everywhere."

The Paris prosecutor's office opened an investigation for "murder, attempted murder in an organized group linked to a terrorist enterprise."

Police officers and a soldier stand by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice on Thursday night. AP

Police officers and a soldier stand by the sealed off area of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice on Thursday night. AP

The ranking politician of the Alpes-Maritime department that includes Nice said the truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), killing 77 people and wounding 50. Many of those on the ground were in shorts and other summer clothing.

Eric Ciotti said on BFM TV that police killed the driver "apparently after an exchange of gunfire."

The president of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur regional council, which includes Nice, said the truck was loaded with arms and grenades. Christian Estrosi told BFM TV that "the driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him."

Bouhlel said he witnessed the man emerge with a gun and start shooting.

Images being broadcast across French media showed revelers running for their lives down Nice's palm tree-lined Promenade des Anglais, the famous seaside boulevard named for the English aristocrats who proposed its construction in the 19th Century.

Video footage showed men and women — one or two pushing strollers — racing to get away from the scenes. And, in what appeared to be evidence of a gun battle, photos showed a truck with at least half a dozen bullet holes punched through its windshield.

It was not immediately clear who would have been behind an attack, but France has recently seen a spate of dramatic assaults from by jihadist groups, including the Islamic State group which straddles Iraq and Syria.

President Barack Obama condemned what he said "appears to be a horrific terrorist attack."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed," he said.

European Council president Donald Tusk said it was a "tragic paradox" that the victims of the attack in Nice were celebrating "liberty, equality and fraternity" — France's motto — on the country's national day.

France's ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, characterised the events as a "terrorist attack."

Writing online, Nice Matin journalist Damien Allemand who was at the waterside said the fireworks display had finished and the crowd had got up to leave when they heard a noise and cries.

"A fraction of a second later, an enormous white truck came along at a crazy speed, turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people," he said.

"I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget."

Graphic footage showed a scene of horror up and down the Promenade, with broken bodies splayed out on the asphalt, some of them piled near one another, others bleeding out onto the roadway or twisted into unnatural shapes.

"Help my mother, please!" one person yells out amid a cacophony of screaming and crying. A pink girl's bicycle is briefly seen overturned by the side of the road.

The origin and authenticity of the footage could not immediately be verified.

Kayla Repan, of Boca Raton, Florida, was among the hundreds gathered on the promenade to watch fireworks.

"The whole city was running. I got extremely frightened and ran away from the promenade," she said. "It was chaos."

With inputs from AP