NICE, France (Reuters) - It took just 15 minutes for a man to carry out an attack that killed at least 84 people, 10 of them children, and injure more than 200 in the French city of Nice on July 14.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a 19-tonne truck at high speed into crowds as a fireworks show to mark France’s Bastille Day national holiday was coming to an end. He was shot dead after plowing through the crowd for some 2 km (1.5 miles) and firing from his vehicle with a pistol.
Following is an outline of the sequence of events.
Times local (GMT +2, EST+6)
July 11: The big, white refrigerator truck involved in the killings is hired in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, just outside Nice. Prosecutors say the hire contract would have expired on July 13.
Before 2230: The attacker, identified by police and prosecutors as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian resident of Nice, rides his bike to the city’s Auriol neighborhood, where he loads it into the parked truck and gets behind the wheel. Bouhlel is known to police for petty crime and violence but is not suspected of Islamist militancy.
2200: A fireworks display attended by some 30,000 locals and tourists, including many children, begins near a tourist office on the Promenade des Anglais, a wide boulevard lined with palm trees on the water’s edge. Parts of its four-lane roadway are closed to traffic in each direction for the show and are thronged with pedestrians.
Approximately 2245: Soon after the firework show ends Bouhlel enters the Promenade des Anglais in the truck and drives down a stretch of about 2 km (1.5 miles) facing the “Vieille Ville” old quarter, where many of the victims are killed. The truck avoids police vehicles blocking access by mounting the kerb, according to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Bouhlel starts swerving to hit people on the roadway and its wide pavements that overlook the sea. According to witness accounts, the truck accelerates as it hurtles into the crowded area near the tourist office.
Regional government chief Christian Estrosi has said the truck was traveling at about 90 km per hour (56 miles per hour).
French state prosecutor Francois Molins has said the bulk of the killing took place along a 1.9 km stretch from number 11 to 147 of the Promenade des Anglais. The area of most destruction appears to be within the 500 meters (550 yards) between the Negresco Hotel and the tourist office.
Approximately 2300: Bouhlel is shot dead by police 300 meters (yards) after he fired three shots from a 7.65 mm pistol.
Social networks are by this time starting to relay images of devastation and chaos.
2350: Sebastien Humbert, deputy prefect of the Alpes-Maritime region that includes Nice, says the early death toll estimate is around 30 and that the incident is for now being described as a “criminal attack”.
0400: President Hollande refers in a televised address to the “terrorist nature of this attack” which involved “the most extreme form of violence” and says the death toll at this stage is at least 77. He says emergency rule imposed in France after Islamist attacks killed 130 people in Paris last November will be extended for three months.
After visiting victims in hospital in Nice, Hollande says the death toll has reached 84 and that about 50 are still fighting for their lives. The attacker was a delivery worker and father, prosecutor Molins said.
Bouhlel’s estranged wife is taken into custody together with another person.
Interior minister Cazeneuve says he cannot confirm the attacker’s motives were linked to radical Islam.
Three more people, whom police sources refer to as Bouhlel’s “close entourage”, are arrested.
Islamic State, through affiliated news agency Amaq, claims responsibility for the attack, saying Bouhlel was “one of the soldiers of Islamic State”.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tells Le Journal du Dimanche that Bouhlel “was radicalized very quickly”.
A man and a woman close to Bouhlel are arrested in Nice. Bouhlel’s estranged wife is released, leaving a total of six people still detained in relation to the killings.
French lawmakers approve a six-month extension of emergency rule.
Five people held for questioning in connection with the attack are presented to a judge and could be placed under formal investigation and charged.
France’s government, facing mounting criticism over security in Nice on the night of the deadly attack, says it is ordering an inquiry by the national police inspectorate.
Reporting by Brian Love, Robert-Jan Bartunek and Bate Felix; Editing by Catherine Evans
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