Eighty-six dead and 206 injured of all ages and nationalities, an incredible violence ‘like a snowplow throwing bodies’, said a witness. Five years later, Nice commemorates the jihadist attack on the Promenade des Anglais on Wednesday July 14.
On July 14, 2016, the evening of National Day in France, around 30,000 people gathered on the seafront bordering the Baie des Anges for the traditional fireworks display.
It was in this crowd that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian in his thirties living in Nice, drove a 19-ton truck, mowing dozens of people for two minutes, before the police don’t bring it down.
The attack had been claimed by the jihadist group organization of the Islamic State, which then controlled territories in Iraq and Syria, although the investigation did not confirm any connection between the ultra-radical organization and its author.
Tribute from ministers
Prime Minister Jean Castex, accompanied among others by the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, and the Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, will participate in the tribute ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Villa Massena, near the Promenade des Anglais.
Also at his side, the mayor LR Christian Estrosi, who will be in Paris in the morning to see ‘his’ municipal police – a tribute to his intervention during an attack which left three dead in a basilica last October, waking up the pains of the city.
Sober and intimate according to the wishes of the families, the ceremony will end with the release of 86 doves. A tribute concert is planned in the evening, at the end of which will be lit on the seafront, at 22:34 sharp, the time of the attack, 86 light beams.
‘Fear of trucks, of crowds’
‘Memory is painful, but forgetting is unbearable. These are very painful moments for us, to go there, to prepare the ceremony. But if we were all alone, at such times, it would be really unbearable, ” says AFP Anne Murris, president of the Memorial des Anges association, who lost her 27-year-old daughter in the attack. ‘May everyone have a thought for them and for us in the depths of their hearts,’ she wishes.
For many relatives of victims, it is still impossible to grieve. Several parents were only able to recover the organs taken from their children for autopsy and sealed by justice last year. Some dispute its authenticity and have seized the Defender of Rights after the refusal of a DNA analysis.
Some victims, direct or indirect, have not yet been compensated. As of July 5, a definitive compensation offer was sent to 85% of the 2,429 victims identified by the Victims Guarantee Fund (FGTI), for a total of 83 million euros paid.
For the remaining 15%, ‘the majority are people whose state of health has not yet stabilized’, notes the FGTI: therefore impossible to assess the damage, adds the organization, which pays to these 360 people, meanwhile, financial provisions.
Five years after the attack, 300 children are still followed at the Lenval hospital in Nice for the psychotrauma suffered. Some have persistent phobias: ‘Fear of trucks, crowds, firecrackers, fireworks, or more classically, fear of the dark but which persists among young people of 17, 18 or even 20 years old’, describes Morgane Gindt, research psychologist.
Two accused at large for procedural violation
In addition to the 86 victims killed and 206 victims physically injured, the FGTI identified a total of 1,683 psychically injured.
Last month, the justice system set the date for the trial of those suspected of having helped Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. In Paris from September 5 to November 15, 2022, eight people will appear, including three for ‘criminal terrorist association’.
If the civil parties (more than 850) and their lawyers welcomed this referral to the assizes, they deplore however that two of the defendants, prosecuted for common law offenses, were released in November following a procedural defect.
Several victims regret the slowness of the investigation conducted in Nice for ‘involuntary homicides and injuries’ on the security system deployed that evening, co-piloted by the prefecture and the town hall, whose representatives were heard by the judges as assisted witnesses .
At the heart of the questions in particular: the mad rush of the truck and the fact of knowing whether it could have been modified, or even stopped, by the installation of concrete pads or planters.