French Unity Cracks as Opposition Slams Nice Security Responseby and
Opposition held off criticism after last year’s attacks
Political show of unity seen fading as election approaches
French security failed the people of Nice.
That’s what opposition politicians, who held their tongues after the last two major terror attacks in France, charged after a truck late Thursday tore through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southeastern city, killing at least 84 people and critically injuring about 50 others.
Leaders of the center-right parties have maintained in the past that national unity was more important than scoring political points. Now, with nine months to go before France’s presidential elections, they’re not holding back.
“If all measures had been taken, this drama wouldn’t have happened,” Alain Juppe, an aspiring candidate in next year’s presidential election for The Republicans party, said on RTL Radio. “Obviously we must do more more, we must do better.”
France has been under a state of emergency since the Nov. 13 attacks at restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris that killed 130 people, deploying 10,000 military personnel to guard critical sites. That assault came after the January 2015 shootings at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and a kosher store near Paris. The Nice attack and four others of smaller scale in the last 18 months have brought the tally close to 240 dead and hundreds injured. Neighboring Belgium was hit by terror attacks at the Brussels airport and in the city’s metro.
“How is it possible that this truck could enter a totally pedestrian zone without there being any measures preventing him from taking this route?” Christian Estrosi, a member of The Republicans and head of the French region that includes Nice, said on BFM TV. “I can’t hide that I’m angry. After Charlie Hebdo, we forgot, and then we had the Bataclan and then we forgot, and we had Brussels, and after Brussels we forgot, and now we have Nice.”
After Thursday’s attack, President Francois Hollande said emergency measures would be extended for three months beyond their planned July 26 expiration. Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, both from the ruling Socialist Party, flew to Nice Friday to meet victims and security forces.
“Everything was done for the security of the people watching the fireworks, ” Hollande said in Nice. “The security forces went into action to neutralize the aggressor, to stop the carnage.”
Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-immigrant National Front, disparaged the government’s efforts against terrorism.
“The war against the scourge of fundamentalism hasn’t started, it must now be declared,” she said in a statement. “That is the deep wish of the French, and I will put all my energy so that they are finally heard and the necessary fight is finally undertaken.”
A French parliamentary report released July 5 said France’s failure to prevent last year’s attack was partly due to lack of coordination between the country’s six intelligence units, and recommended the creation of a single counter-terrorism agency.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, head of The Republicans and the leading rival to Juppe for the nomination in next May’s presidential election, issued only a statement of condolences.
Police killed the driver of the truck, a 31-year-old Tunisian with French residency. While the government and French judicial system are treating the attack as Islamic terrorism, media reports have cited neighbors of the suspect as saying he was going through a divorce and wasn’t religious.
As he plowed through the crowd, “nothing could have stopped him,” one of the survivors of the attack said on BFM TV.