As Nice tries to return to normal, families demand answers

AP News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2016 11:09 AM
As Nice tries to return to normal, families demand answers

NICE, France (AP) — Joggers, cyclists and sun-seekers were back on Nice's famed Riviera coast Tuesday as signs of normal life return to the city's famous Promenade des Anglais, where dozens were killed in last week's Bastille Day truck attack.

Under a blazing sun, there were few visible reminders of the July 14 carnage, save for a handful of flags flying at half-staff and a number of armed soldiers patrolling the promenade.

Some of Nice's beachside restaurants reopened for business, and the final section of the road was set to reopen to traffic following three days of official mourning.

Yet elsewhere in the city the grief was still raw as families said farewell to their loved ones and some demanded to know from the authorities how security measures had failed to prevent a man from driving a truck through crowds of revelers in an apparent planned attack that resulted in the worst mass carnage in Nice's recent history.

At the ar-Rahma mosque in the eastern Nice suburb of Ariane, worshippers held prayers for three of those killed in Thursday's attack, including 4-year-old Kylan Mejri and his mother Olfa Kalfallah, 31.

"What happened mustn't tear society apart," said Abdelkader Sadouni, a Muslim imam from Nice, his voice faltering as he called for unity in the face of an attack that indiscriminately hit men, women and children, Christian and Muslims, residents and foreign tourists enjoying France's national day fireworks together.

Mourners rallied around Kylan's father, Tahar Mejri, who carried the plain white coffin of his son out to a waiting hearse.

Holding photos of his son, Mejri spoke of his grief and described the moment that he arrived on the promenade to find his wife dead and Kylan's scooter lying on the floor. He spent all night going from one hospital to another before learning that his son hadn't survived.

Mejri said he plans to sue the authorities over what happened.

"A festival like that with nearly 33,000 and the promenade was open," he said. "There was no security."

The attack has sparked a national debate about whether security officials did all they could to prevent the attack — the third mass slaughter in France over the past 18 months. French lawmakers were expected to debate whether the country's state of emergency — imposed after the attack on a concert hall and other venues in Paris — should be extended for another three months. Witnesses said little effort appeared to have been made to prevent a truck from driving onto the promenade Thursday.

Reflecting the widespread criticism of the government's security measures, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was loudly booed Monday as he came to a memorial ceremony on the Nice shore.

Eighty-four people were killed in the attack. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that 59 people were still hospitalized, 29 of them in intensive care.

Late Monday evening, mourners formed a human chain to remove candles, flowers and other mementos honoring the victims of the attack, in which Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck through crowds watching fireworks. Volunteers moved the tributes from the spots where victims fell to a gazebo in a seaside park.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said a search of Bouhlel's computer had found a clear, recent interest in "radical jihadism," adding that the attack was obviously premeditated though there was no proof that Bouhlel was directed by an extremist network.

Internet searches on his computer included Islamic propaganda chants, the term "horrible deadly accidents," and stories on the recent attacks against a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on police officers in Dallas, and the killing of two police officials in Magnanville, outside of Paris.

Nice resident Clare Spencer was determined to reclaim the city for its residents and tourists and rejected the attempt of terrorists to instill fear.

"They will not take the promenade away from us," she said. "They will not win, the evil ones...The people are back, they are in the restaurants and on the beach."

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Adam Pemble contributed to this report.