PARIS An attacker killed about 60 people and injured 100 when he drove a truck at high speed into crowds watching Bastille Day fireworks in the French Riviera city of Nice late on Thursday, local media quoted officials as saying.
Police shot and killed the driver, who drove at high speed for over 100 metres (yards) along the famed Promenade des Anglais seafront before hitting the mass of spectators, regional sub-prefect Sebastien Humbert told France Info radio.
Broadcaster i-Tele quoted the prosecutor's office as saying the preliminary death toll was 60. Local lawmaker Eric Ciotti told France Info radio more probably had died. Other officials put the number of wounded at least 100 and possibly more.
Humbert described it as a clear criminal attack, although the driver was not yet identified. Residents of the Mediterranean city close to the Italian border were advised to stay indoors. There was no sign of any other attack.
Almost exactly eight months ago Islamic State militants killed 130 people in Paris on Nov. 13, the bloodiest in a number of attacks in France and Belgium in the past two years. On Sunday, France had breathed a sigh of relief as the month-long Euro 2016 soccer tournament ended without a feared attack.
Officials were cautious about accounts from bystanders that the lone man driving the truck had also opened fire and, amid chatter on social media of a hostage situation, police called on people not to propagate rumours that were hampering their work.
One woman told France Info she and others had fled in terror: "The lorry came zig-zagging along the street. We ran into a hotel and hid in the toilets with lots of people."
Another woman told the station she was sheltering in a restaurant on the promenade with some 200 other people, where things had calmed down about two hours after the incident.
"Dear Nicois," local mayor Christian Estrosi tweeted, "The driver of a truck appears to have killed dozens of people. Stay at home for the time being. More news to follow."
Regional newspaper Nice Matin quoted its reporter at the scene saying there were many injured people and blood on the street. It published a photograph of a damaged, long-distance delivery truck, which it said was riddled with bullets and images of emergency services treating the injured.
Damien Allemand, the paper's correspondent, was quoted as saying: "People are running. It's panic. He rode up onto the Prom and piled into the crowd ... There are people covered in blood. There must be many injured."
Social media carried images of people lying apparently lifeless in pools of blood.
Local mayor Estrosi has warned in the past of the risk of Islamist attacks in the region, following Islamic State bloodshed in Paris and Brussels over the past 18 months.
French President Francois Hollande, who was in the south of France at the time, had hours earlier said a state of emergency put in place after the Paris attacks in November would not be extended when it was due to expire on July 26.
"We can't extend the state of emergency indefinitely, it would make no sense. That would mean we're no longer a republic with the rule of law applied in all circumstances," Hollande told journalists in a traditional Bastille Day interview.
(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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Published Date: Jul 15, 2016 05:00 am | Updated Date: Jul 15, 2016 05:00 am