The death toll from last night’s Nice terror attack has now topped more than 80. It also looks as though some 50 people were injured when a truck driven by a 31-year-old man, who was known to police but not to the intelligence services, tore through the crowd of people celebrating Bastille day. Isabel Hardman, who was in Nice at the time of the attack, has reported on the aftermath. In the hours following the devastating incident, the analysis has also started. What seems particularly tragic about this horrendous incident is that it strikes a France which was on the mend after last year’s attacks in Paris in November, which left 130 people dead, and in January, when the offices of Charlie Hebdo – a French satirical magazine – were targeted. France has just successfully hosted the Euro football championships and was starting to hope that the process of healing was underway.
Tragically, just hours before the incident in Nice took place, the French President Francois Hollande had said the state of emergency would be lifted. In his traditional Bastille Day address, he said: ‘We had to prolong the state of emergency until we could be sure that the law gives us the means to counter the terrorist threat effectively’. Hollande went on to say that the state of emergency would be gone by July 26th. Understandably, in the aftermath of the devastating events in Nice, things have changed: last night, Hollande has said the state of emergency must now be extended again and in his reaction to the attack, Hollande said it will continue for the next three months at least. Ten thousand soldiers are on standby and France remains on a war footing. It’s hard to fault this response. And yet what was so devastating about the Nice incident last night was its simplicity: a terrorist in a lorry was able to inflict such horror on a city celebrating Bastille Day. Extra security might go some way to trying to make the people of France feel safer. But a permanent state of emergency, which allows the police to search without a warrant and place hundreds of people under house arrest, is not much of a solution.