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Saturday, July 16, 2016, 17:02

IS claims Nice truck attack


IS claims Nice truck attack

An Islamic State-run media outlet says the man who barreled his truck into a crowd in the French coastal city of Nice is a "soldier" of the group.

The Aamaq news agency on Saturday cited a "security source" as saying the attacker "carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of coalition countries fighting the Islamic State."

The statement did not name the attacker, and the language implied that he may have acted independently. There is no evidence IS was involved in planning the July 14 attack.

The attack killed 84 people and wounded 200. The driver was identified as Mohamed Bouhlel, a Tunisian deliveryman known to authorities as a petty criminal.

European governments moved to tighten security on Friday in the wake of the attack. Security officials warned of the possibility of a second "lone wolf attack".

Men, women and children were in the crowd when a white, 20-ton panel truck zigzagged through the crowd at high speed on the Promenade des Anglais as they watched a fireworks display celebrating Bastille Day, which is France's National Day.

Police shot and killed the driver.

French President Francois Hollande immediately labeled the incident a terror attack.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters: "We are at war." Three days of national mourning were declared by the government.

IS claims Nice truck attack

Police in Nice said the driver, who was known for petty criminal offences, had started his journey in the mountains behind Nice.

Guns and a grenade were found in the vehicle. Eyewitnesses said the driver pulled out a handgun and was exchanging gunfire with police before he was killed.

Germany immediately tightened security along its borders with France. Both countries are part of the Schengen Area, which constitutes European countries that have agreed to abolish passport and customs controls among one another.

Belgium held a meeting of officials and said later that there were fears of a second such attack using a vehicle on Belgian soil.

In the United Kingdom, newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain stood "shoulder to shoulder" with France against what she called "these murderers".

The BBC reported that UK intelligence officers were working with their French counterparts investigating the attack.

An extra 3,000 police and army reservists were being drafted in France to add to the 7,000 already on terror attack duty throughout the country.

Hollande said he was extending by three months the state of emergency first imposed after the gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November on cafes, restaurants, a soccer stadium and a theater that killed 130 and injured more than 360.

French Prime Minister Valls said: "Terrorism is a threat that is weighing heavily on France.

"We are faced with a war that terrorism has brought against us. The goal of the terrorists is to make us scared. We won't give in to the terrorist threat. We must stand together united. Times have changed, and we should learn to live with terrorism."

Alain Juillet, former intelligence chief with France's Directorate of External Security, said: "We can see the possibility of more attacks by individuals.

"For France, it is almost impossible to stop everything," he added.

Sam Kiley, a security expert at UK-based Sky News, said France was heavily engaged in the fight against terror, which has made the country a target for terror attacks.

In Beijing, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said terrorists had targeted France as an influential country and wanted to "multiply the panic" with their attacks.

France has the largest number of Muslim migrants of any European Union country, and it has faced problems of cultural integration, Cui said.

Two Chinese nationals were among the injured, according to reports.

Tuo Yannan in Paris and Wang Qingyun in Beijing contributed to this story.

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