NICE, France, July 15 (UPI) — A 31-year-old delivery driver who was raised in Tunisia but lived in Nice was named as the driver of the truck that plowed through a crowded street in the French Riviera city, killing 84 people including 10 children.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel was named as the suspect who also opened fire on the crowd during a Bastille Day celebration. Authorities said he has a criminal record but it is unclear if he acted alone. Investigators are trying to determine if he has ties to terrorist groups.
French President Francois Hollande said 50 people were critically injured in the attack. About 200 people were injured overall.
Hollande, after visiting a hospital where some of the victims are being treated, called the attack “unspeakable.”
“We have an enemy who is going to continue to strike all the people, all the countries who have freedom as a fundamental value,” Hollande said.
So far, two Americans have been identified as being among the dead. Sean Copeland, 51, and his son, Brodie, 11, of Lakeway, Texas, were vacationing in Nice with their family.
About 10:30 p.m., a box truck plowed into a crowd on the main street in Nice, Promenade des Anglais, where hundreds were gathered to watch the fireworks for France’s national day. The driver also fired on the crowd along the 1.3 mile route before being shot dead by police.
French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said Bouhlel has a criminal record that includes a conviction related to throwing a wood pallet at a motorist. He was given two-months parole, which he fulfilled. The minister did not address possible links to terrorism.
Bouhlel has been described as a loner. He was married and has three children.
Earlier on Friday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared three days of national mourning beginning Saturday for the victims. President Francois Hollande said in a televised address the attack had “undeniable” terrorist characteristics and said the deliberate use of a large commercial truck to mow down spectators was “a monstrosity.”
He announced the government would request a three-month extension of the state of emergency put into place after the November attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. It was set to expire July 26.
“France has been struck on the day of her national holiday,” Hollande said. “Human rights are denied by fanatics, and France is clearly their target.”
World leaders spoke out in response to the attack. The prime ministers of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Israel, New Zealand, Turkey and the president of the European Council, are among the many who condemned the attack on social media. Shaqki Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, the country’s highest Muslim religious authority, called the attack “despicable” and said Islamic teachings “never called for bloodshed or the killing of innocents regardless of their beliefs and faith.”
“The only way for us is to cooperate with each other on all levels to confront this extremist thought that now threatens the entire world and is no longer limited to a specific region,” he said.