Dozens of Lives Claimed by Latest Terror Attack on West

More than 80 dead, hundreds injured in Nice assault targeting France’s national holiday

Nice terror attack
Police stand by as medical personnel attend a person on the ground on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France / AP
• July 15, 2016 2:25 pm

More than 80 people, including Americans, were killed Thursday night when an attacker drove through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, in Nice.

The attack was the latest in a series of deadly assaults that have devastated Europe and the United States, and came eight months after coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris led France to declare a months-long state of emergency. Many leaders were quick to decry the attacks and attribute them to terrorism.

"A fresh atrocity has just been inflicted on France," French President Francois Hollande said in a televised address early Friday. "It is the whole of France which is under threat from Islamic terrorism."

Details about the assault continue to unfold, but the attacker has been identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a French-Tunisian man who was known to police for crimes such as theft and violence but unknown to French intelligence officials. Reuters, citing Tunisian security sources, reported that Bouhlel, 31, was from the town of Msaken in Tunisia and last visited there four years ago.

Bouhlel killed at least 84 people, including several children, celebrating the national holiday in Nice by running them over with a truck filled with weapons. Police surrounded the truck as the attacker ran over bodies, shooting him dead. French authorities are investigating the incident as a likely terrorist attack.

More than 200 people were wounded in the attack, including 25 on life support and 52 in critical condition, according to Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins.

The attack led Hollande to extend the state of emergency in France for an additional three months, after previously announcing that it would soon be lifted. France has been healing since the assaults on the Bataclan concert hall and other targets killed 130 people on Nov. 13, 2015.

"Human rights are being denied by terrorists, France is clearly their target. The nature of terrorism cannot be denied. The perpetrator has been killed, we do not know whether he had any accomplices," the French president said Friday.

European countries including Belgium, Germany, and Spain moved to tighten security following the attack. Belgium, which suffered deadly terrorist bombings at Brussels airport in March, has put in place stricter security measures ahead of its own national holiday celebrations next week.

Among the victims in Nice were two Americans, a father and son from Austin, Texas, who were on a family vacation in Europe. The State Department confirmed the deaths of two U.S. citizens on Friday but did not immediately release their identities. Later, news outlets identified them as Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie, 11, citing family members.

"We are heartbroken and in shock over the loss of Brodie Copeland, an amazing son and brother who lit up our lives, and Sean Copeland, a wonderful husband and father," the family said in a statement, according to the local Austin-American Statesman. "They are so loved."

Rep. Roger Williams (R., Texas), who represents Austin, mourned the victims in a statement.

"Islamic terrorists know no borders, as they have targeted us and our allies abroad and our communities here at home. Make no mistake, we are under attack. The loss of Sean and Brodie Copeland hits us in our core and breaks our hearts," Williams said. "Our president must not lose sight of the mission to keep us safe and destroy radical Islamic extremists. May God bless the Copeland family and the entire Austin community today."

President Obama released a statement Thursday night condemning the attack and describing it as an apparent "horrific terrorist attack."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved ones of those killed, and we wish a full recovery for the many wounded," Obama said. "I have directed my team to be in touch with French officials, and we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice."

The attack occurred just over a month after the United States was devastated by its largest domestic terror attack since September 11, 2001. Omar Mateen, an ISIS sympathizer, opened fire on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, killing 49 people and wounding dozens of others.

While ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, supporters of the terror group have celebrated the attack on social media, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist media. A spokesman for the terror group also reportedly called on supporters to use cars to attack French people, Americans, and their allies ahead of the attack in Nice.

ISIS is believed to have perpetrated or inspired multiple terror attacks across the globe in recent months, including incidents in France, the United States, Belgium, Turkey, and Bangladesh, in addition to ongoing assaults in the group’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.