Jitters amid fear of new attacks after Nice bloodshed
Scattered violence across Europe is sparking fears that copycats may be striking out after the truck rampage that killed dozens
An axe attack on a German train. Four people stabbed in the French Alps. A shooting in Britain. Scattered violence across Europe is sparking fears that copycats may be striking out after the truck rampage that killed dozens on a Nice beachfront, prompting panicked police deployment and leading to a likely extension of France’s 8-month-old state of emergency.
The incidents are drawing greater attention than usual from police and on social media after last week’s Bastille Day attack on Nice fiercely interrupted the European vacation season, killing at least 84 people.
On Tuesday, a Moroccan man stabbed a woman and three girls in the French Alps. In southern France, jittery authorities evacuated a hotel after a man refusing to pay his bill barricaded himself in his room. A shooting in Britain prompted concern that it was more than an isolated incident.
It’s just the kind of fear that extremist groups like Islamic State want to sow. The group is boasting about the Nice violence in statements, videos and graphics - and about a stabbing in Bavaria by an angry 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker, the first IS-claimed violence in Germany.
That fear drove French President Francois Hollande to push for an extension of a state of emergency that's been in place since deadly attacks on Paris in November.
“We could have thought that we didn’t need it anymore. But after the Nice attack... as long as we don't know if it could prompt imitations, as long as we don't know all the exact reasons, my responsibility is to extend the state of emergency,” he said Tuesday, urging lawmakers to approve the extension as they debate it this week.
While critics note that the state of emergency didn’t prevent the Nice attack, the French Parliament is expected to prolong it for three or six months. It allows greater police powers to search homes and hold people under house arrest.
Six people are currently in custody in the Nice attack investigation, and five are undergoing questioning in the French anti-terrorism agency headquarters near Paris and face likely charges of complicity in the violence, authorities said Tuesday.
Driver Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel rammed his truck through revelers watching fireworks after praising ISIS, researching attacks against a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and on police officers in Dallas and plotting out his own attack route, according to the Paris prosecutor.
French authorities have been on extra-high alert since the attack, and a mystery stabbing in the Alps on Tuesday set many on edge.
Authorities say police detained a Moroccan man who attacked a woman and her three daughters - 8, 12 and 14 - at a resort as they ate their breakfast.
All four were expected to recover, said Jean-Marc Duprat, a deputy mayor for the town of Laragne-Monteglin. Duprat initially said the man was upset that the girls were wearing shorts and T-shirts, but later said that didn't appear to be the case and that the attacker's motive wasn't known.
In the southern French town of Bollene, authorities evacuated a hotel Tuesday after a man with a knife barricaded himself in his room. There were unconfirmed reports the man had been seen with a suspicious parcel with wires showing.
In the eastern English town of Spalding, British police say three people were shot dead near a swimming pool, but said it's not thought to be terrorism-related.
Back in the Nice region, fear gave way to mourning, as a mosque in the eastern suburb of Ariane held prayers Tuesday for three of those killed in the truck attack, including 4-year-old Kylan Mejri and his mother, Olfa Kalfallah, 31.
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.
Elsewhere in Nice were signs that the city is coming back to life. Joggers, cyclists and sun-seekers were back on the Riviera coast under a blazing sun. On the famed Promenade des Anglais, there were few visible reminders Tuesday of the July 14 carnage, save for a handful of flags flying at half-staff and armed soldiers patrolling. Some beachside restaurants reopened for business, and the final section of the road reopened to traffic following three days of official mourning.
Resident Clare Spencer was determined to reclaim the city for its residents and tourists and rejected the attempt of extremists 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.”