Hollande expresses 'French nation’s solidarity' with Nice victims
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French President François Hollande led tributes on Saturday to those killed in a Bastille Day attack in the southern resort city of Nice. A white rose was placed for each of the 86 victims at the central memorial.
The homage to the dead, as well as the more than 400 injured in the July 14 attack, was postponed until one day after the three-month anniversary because of storms in the region.
Addressing the victims’ families, Hollande said he was expressing “our compassion and the entire French nation’s solidarity”. He added:
“It should have been a day of joy,” he said. “And it was hell. In just four minutes a truck sped through a peaceful crowd and turned the Promenade des Anglais into a cemetery,” Hollande said at the commemoration.
“The victims of this barbaric act did not share the same backgrounds, the same history, the same skin colour, they didn’t share the same religion,” Hollande said. “But today they are all together because of this tragedy.”
The ceremony was closed to the public.
The massacre was among the worst in a string of jihadist attacks over the past two years that have ramped up security fears while stoking anti-immigrant sentiment in the run-up to presidential elections next year.
The massacre unfolded as more than 30,000 Bastille Day revellers gathered on the seafront Promenade des Anglais, a 31-year-old Tunisian rammed a 19-tonne truck through the crowd before police shot him dead.
The Islamic State (IS) group said the driver of the truck, Mohamed Lahouaiej B., was one of its followers.
Hollande's Socialist government came under fire for alleged security lapses ahead of the attack in Nice. Critics pointed to an insufficient police presence despite the state of emergency in place since the November 13, 2015, attacks that claimed 130 lives in and around Paris.
The government, however, rejected calls for Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to resign.
Four days after the Nice attack, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed when he visited the city to honour the victims.
The attack also exacerbated tensions in French society, felt particularly by the country's large Muslim community – estimated at 7.5 million, it is the largest in Europe. Several city councils subsequently went on to forbid the wearing of Burkini swimwear, before the controversial ban was reversed by France's highest court.
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