EU-wide condemnation of Bastille Day terrorist attacks in Nice

Belgium to put extra security measures in place ahead of 21 July national day celebrations.

Police secure the area in Nice where a truck drove into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations  | Photo credit: Andreas Gebert / DPA/PA Images

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

15 Jul 2016

The leader of the European Parliament's largest political grouping, Manfred Weber has led EU-wide condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Nice which have left 84 dead and seriously injured scores of others.

In the attack on Thursday night, a truck was used to kill dozens as opposed to much more complex operations involving heavy weapons and explosives in the past.

The killer was named on Friday by local newspaper Nice Matin as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French Tunisian

He mounted pavements at high speed and ploughed through crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

It is France’s third major terrorist attack in 18 months. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

Speaking on Friday, German deputy Weber, the leader of Parliament's 215 strong European People's Party grouping said, "We are deeply shocked by the attack in Nice. Words aren’t enough to describe the horror that happened.”

Weber added, “The whole EPP group is mourning the victims of this barbarism. Our thoughts are with their families and friends. I want to express our full solidarity to the French people and the government. We are at your side.

"Barbaric acts like this are direct attacks against our freedom and our European way of life”, Weber said, adding; “Now we have to continue and accelerate our fight against terrorism. Europe has to stand united in this challenge and during these difficult times.”

In a tweet, German chancellor Angela Merkel said, "Together with many others we stand side by side with #France in the fight against terrorism.“

Outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage also condemned the attack but insisted that slack EU border security was to blame.

Speaking on British TV, Farage was involved in a heated conversation about racial tensions in France and what he made of the events.

Farage - who was one of the main voices behind the Brexit campaign - said the attacks were "horrendous" before saying ISIS are using the refugee crisis to exploit EU checkpoints.

The Parliament's left wing GUE/NGL group President Gabi Zimmer expressed “deepest condolences” to the victims, saying, “Our thoughts are very much with their families and friends during this difficult time.

“We stand firm in solidarity with the people in France today and we condemn in the strongest possible term this attack on innocent civilians.

“There is never any justification for such an appalling loss of life. However, we appeal to all sides to refrain from acting with haste and blaming individuals or groups until we have established all the facts.”

Zimmer added, “We need unity more than ever during this moment - we must never allow terrorism to divide us.”

During the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which is taking place in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, ASEM leaders said, “We strongly condemn the heinous and cowardly terrorist attacks perpetrated, resulting in the unacceptable loss of innocent lives and countless injuries."

Meanwhile, senior politicians in France have begun questioning the country’s anti-terror strategy.

Alain Juppé, a former Prime Minister who is now mayor of Bordeaux, was among the first to voice criticism of President François Hollande’s government in the wake of the attack.

“If all measures had been taken, the Nice attack would not have taken place,” he said in a radio interview, adding that “flaws and shortcomings” still existed in France's national security strategy. “It is imperative that government intervene in that area to better coordinate our intelligence services.”

Brussels was the scene of similar carnage in March when a terrorist attack left 32 dead and while the Belgian authorities have decided not to raise the terror alert level after the attack in Nice, extra security measures will be put in place for the Ghent festival and the celebrations for the 21 July national holiday.

Speaking after a special meeting of the National Security Council, the Belgian Prime minister Charles Michel said "we will take into account new types of terrorist attacks" and "we will have special attention for mass events."

Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon said, "Brussels police have asked for assistance from the federal police and we have accepted their request. We will monitor the situation minute by minute now, and if we should have to impose extra measures, we will not hesitate.”

In an assessment, Roberta Bonazzi, Executive Director of the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, said, “While the identity of the perpetrators is not yet publicly known, the target of the terrorist attack is symbolic: France on Bastille Day. It is also a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our open societies. The modus operandi is different from what have been seen so far in Europe. A truck was used to kill dozens as opposed to much more complex operations involving heavy weapons and explosives.

“This may suggest the act of two isolated individuals as opposed to a cell that requires logistical support and coordination. Situations like these are clearly more difficult - if not impossible - to be detected by the intelligence and security forces of any country.”

Eye witnesses have described the horror, including Belgian tourist Caroline Elias, who was sitting on the terrace of a local bar in Nice when the attack took place.

She said, “The panic was enormous. People were terrified. The panic was such that people even started to swim in the sea to escape."

Elias was on the famed seafront Promenade des Anglais when the truck drove into the crowd, just after the fireworks for the French national holiday began.

"There was a lot of panic. People were terrified. Everyone was asking "what happened?" You could see on their faces that it was very serious."

"I just left my purse outside and hurried inside, into the restaurant, together with my daughter. We fled into the toilet and locked the door. The images of what happened in Paris came back to your mind. You think they could come and shoot people on terraces and in bars and restaurants."

Shares in European airlines, hotels, and travel groups plummeted on Friday after the attack.

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