The Latest: Nice victim memorials removed ahead of reopening

AP News
Posted: Jul 18, 2016 9:03 PM
The Latest: Nice victim memorials removed ahead of reopening

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on that truck attack in Nice, France (all times local):

11 p.m.

Mourners have formed a human chain to remove flowers, candles and other mementos placed along the Promenade des Anglais as spontaneous memorials to the victims of the Bastille Day attack in preparation to open the westbound lane.

Rather than simply dismantling the tributes to the dead, volunteers on Monday evening moved them from the spots where victims fell along the killer's trajectory to a gazebo in a seaside park, passing the flowers and other mementos hand to hand.

The memorials have become a focal point for grief in the days since an attacker killed 84 people as they strolled along the seaside after the Bastille Day fireworks display.

The operation proceeded solemnly until a column led by police on horseback reached a pile of garbage and trash heaped on the site where police shot to death the attacker. The spot has become a flashpoint for anger, transformed from angry notes on the night after the attack to bitter messages scrawled on beach stones the next day to a pile of stinking trash by Monday.

The more emotional in the crowd refused to let crews remove the trash until police wearing bullet-proof vests arrived and cooled tensions. Garbage collectors threw the refuse into the back of a garbage truck.

The final section of the Promenade des Anglais is scheduled to reopen to traffic on Tuesday morning, following three days of official mourning.


8 p.m.

Italy is investigating if the Nice truck attacker recently had contacts with Tunisians living in the southeastern Puglia region, according to news agency ANSA.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told some lawmakers Monday that French authorities want to know if Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, who used a truck to kill at least 84 people in Nice, had been in touch with Tunisians in the Bari area in recent weeks, ANSA reported.

Alfano's spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call for comment, and anti-terrorism police in Bari didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Italy's national anti-terrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, said he had no knowledge about the reported French request to see if the attacker had an accomplice in Puglia.


5:05 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor says that the truck driver who killed 84 people in Nice had expressed support for the Islamic State group and searched online for information about the Orlando attack on a gay nightclub.

Prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said Monday that slain attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had clearly plotted out the Bastille Day attack, with reconnaissance visits to the beachfront where he plowed down revelers on Thursday.

Molins described a quick radicalization of a man who in the past hadn't been religious. He said a review of Bouhlel's computer and phone showed online searches relating to IS, other jihadi groups and violent images.

IS has claimed responsibility for the attack.


4:55 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor says 13 bodies are still unidentified following the truck attack on Bastille Day that killed 84 people.

Francois Molins also said Monday that officials have begun returning to families the remains of some of those who died in the attack in Nice, on the French Riviera.

The prosecutor spoke hours after thousands of people massed on the waterfront promenade where the attack took place for a moment of silence.

The attack occurred when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in Nice, drove his truck through a crowd.


3:40 p.m.

French officials say police found 11 telephones, cocaine and 2,600 euros ($2,900) in cash at the home of a suspect held in the investigation into the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice.

The suspect is among seven people in custody in the probe into last week's attack, which killed 84 people. Three of the suspects were brought to French intelligence headquarters in Paris on Monday to face eventual terrorism charges, according to a security official.

At the home of one of the suspects, an Albanian national, investigators found the phones and cocaine, according to that official and the Paris prosecutor's office. They wouldn't elaborate on the relationship between the suspect and attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who was killed by police after ramming a truck through a crowd watching fireworks.


1:15 p.m.

A family friend of a 22-year-old Australian woman seriously injured in the Bastille Day attack in Nice says a "wonderful stranger" stayed by her side throughout the ordeal and continues to visit her daily in the hospital.

Debbie Cook told reporters outside the Pasteur hospital Monday that her friend, 22-year-old Adelaide Stratton, suffered serious injuries but that "she is getting better every day."

She said Stratton cannot speak and does not remember the attack, "which is better." She declined to discuss the injuries saying that the family wants to protect Stratton's privacy.

Cook, who was traveling in Europe and came to Nice to assist Stratton, said a French man aided Stratton in the critical period after the attack.

"A complete stranger stayed with her in the immediate stages after she was injured and went in the ambulance. And bless him, he has been at the hospital with her most days," Cook said.


12 noon

France is holding a national moment of silence for 84 people killed by a truck rampage in Nice, and thousands of people are massed on the waterfront promenade where Bastille Day celebrations became a killing field.

Flowers in their hands and tears in their eyes, crowds stood on the rocky beach for several minutes Monday looking toward the Promenade des Anglais, the road that had been cleared of traffic for Thursday's holiday fireworks show.

Driver Mohamed Lahouiaej Bouhlel sped his truck through the crowd, aiming to kill. Many of the dead and 308 injured were children.

Among those at the ceremony in Nice was Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Buildings stood silent across the country.


11:35 a.m.

The uncle of the man who killed 84 people with a truck on the French Riviera says his nephew was indoctrinated about two weeks ago by an Algerian member of the Islamic State group in Nice.

French officials could not confirm Monday that attacker Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel had been approached by an Algerian recruiter, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

The driver's uncle, Sadok Bouhlel, told The Associated Press that given Bouhlel's family problems — he was estranged from his wife and three children — the Algerian "found in Mohamed an easy prey."

Bouhlel's rapid radicalization has puzzled investigators. Friends and family said he had not been an observant Muslim in the past.

Sadok Bouhlel spoke in the driver's hometown of Msaken, Tunisia. He said he learned about the Algerian from extended family members who live in Nice.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack Thursday but Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that investigators have found no sign yet that Bouhlel had links to a particular network.


11:30 a.m.

The French government is defending its efforts to fight Islamic State extremists abroad and at home, announcing new airstrikes against their strongholds in the past two days.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist administration has come under blistering criticism from opposition conservatives after last week's deadly attack in Nice. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy accused the government of bad policies that he says failed to prevent three major attacks in the past 18 months.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hit back Monday, listing a series of laws and extra police forces created under Hollande's presidency "to face a threat that France was not prepared for" when he took over from Sarkozy in 2012.

After a special security meeting, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French forces in the U.S-led coalition struck IS targets again overnight and on Saturday. French warplanes have been involved in the operation in Iraq and to a lesser degree in Syria.


9:15 a.m.

France's interior minister says investigators have no evidence so far that the truck driver who killed 84 people in Nice had links to "terrorist networks."

Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday on RTL radio that while the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Bastille Day attack, the driver may have been motivated by IS messages but not necessarily coordinating with a larger network.

Cazeneuve says: "These links for now have not been established by the investigation."

Authorities say Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian living in Nice, had become recently and rapidly radicalized.

Cazeneuve said 59 people are still hospitalized after the attack Thursday, 29 of them in intensive care, out of 308 people injured overall. Many of the dead and injured were children watching a fireworks display with their families.