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French Authorities Identify Man Who Attacked Bastille Day Crowd In Nice


In the city of Nice in the south of France, the boardwalk is closed today. Terrorism investigators have cordoned off a crime scene that stretches for a mile. During last night's Bastille Day celebration, a man drove a truck through crowds of people who had gathered to watch a fireworks display over the Mediterranean. At least 84 people were killed and many others injured. And now we know more about the driver and about how last night's events unfolded. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley joins us from Nice with the latest. Hi, Eleanor.


SHAPIRO: What have we learned that is new today about how events unfolded last night?

BEARDSLEY: Right, so last night we were wondering if there was shooting and if many people had been killed by gunfire, and were there explosives in the van. And we found out today - the Paris prosecutor, who's investigating the case as a terrorist case, spoke and he said, there were no explosives in the truck. The killer was armed with one handgun, and he had a shootout with police when police tried to stop, you know, him plowing through the crowd. He had three replica - fake weapons with him. So he killed all of these people with this refrigerated truck and nothing else.

SHAPIRO: And what have investigators learned about who this man is or was?

BEARDSLEY: Right, he is a 31-year-old man - a Tunisian. His name is Mohamed Bouhlel. He had a residency permit to live and work in France. He was married to a French woman - I've been told of Tunisian descent - the French media is saying. But they were divorced or divorcing. You know, Ari, I actually went up to the neighborhood where he is said to have lived and spoke to neighbors there. And it was in the north of Nice, sort of high-rise, working-class neighborhood with some public housing.

And they said the wife - her family was very good, but this man was just a horrible person. And everyone there said, this attack had nothing to do with Islamist terrorism or ISIS. This was just a very angry, horrible person who went out and, you know, killed dozens of people on Bastille Day. And we don't have anybody claiming this attack or any connection with terrorism so far, even though it is being investigated as a terrorist case.

SHAPIRO: Now, we know that two of the victims were American, and we're going to hear more about them elsewhere in the program. But what can you tell us about the people who were killed and injured in this attack?

BEARDSLEY: Right, well, Ari, 202 people - well, 84 are dead, 202 people are wounded. The Paris prosecutor said, 52 of them are in absolute critical condition. He said, the death toll is likely to go up. I went to the hospital today, and we saw some of the injured. A 16-year-old girl Kimberly Torres (ph) came out with her mother. Her leg was in sort of a brace, and she told us what happened to her. Here she is; she's speaking French.

KIMBERLY TORRES: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Basically she said, she saw the van. She saw people lying dead and their bodies just, you know, severed heads, she said. She began crying at one point. She said, she was, you know, hurt in the stampede to get out of there. Her mother was crying. And we also spoke to a nurse. This hospital is the third-largest children's hospital in France and does a lot of surgery, but she said they never see numbers like they saw last night come in within just minutes. And here's what she said - she said, the injuries were also specific.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What is extraordinary with last night is the type of injuries close to damage control and injuries you find in war zones.

BEARDSLEY: Ari, we know that there were also citizens from Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine among the injured. When you walk around Nice, you hear a lot of foreigners here. This is a vacation place, and there's a lot of foreigners coming.

SHAPIRO: And we also know that 10 of the dead were children. Eleanor, what can you tell us about the response from the government?

BEARDSLEY: Well, in one day, when Francois Hollande said in the morning, we are lifting the state of emergency. We will not extend it. And that evening he said, we're extending it three more months. He said, this is serious. We're going to have to become even more vigilant.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley speaking with us from Nice, in the south of France. Thank you again, Eleanor.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.