World leaders unite behind France after Bastille Day attack

The United States and foreign heads of state declared solidarity after a man killed more than 80 people by driving a large truck down a packed street.

Andrea Comas/Reuters
People at the Spanish parliament in Madrid take a moment of silence on Friday to pay tribute to the victims of the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France.

World leaders have offered solidarity and condolences to the families of victims even as they condemned the terror attack that saw a man kill more than 80 people in Nice, France, by driving a large truck through a crowd of Bastille Day revelers.

In an act that French President François Hollande said was of an “undeniable terrorist nature,” the man drove more than a mile down the Promenade des Anglais running people down at around 11 p.m. local time on Thursday before he was shot by police, who say they found guns and grenades inside the vehicle.

In a statement following the attacks, President Obama offered words of comfort to the families and reiterated the United States’ solidarity with France, its “oldest ally.”

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and other loved-ones of those killed," Mr. Obama said, also noting "the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world."

US Secretary of State John Kerry labelled the incident a "horrendous attack," adding that he "was proud to stand alongside French leaders earlier today at Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, and the United States will continue to stand firmly with the French people during this time of tragedy."

While some US political and media figures expressed despondency, a majority of world leaders used it as an opportunity to reiterate unity.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used the events to reiterate calls for the screening of or banning of Muslims entering the United States. However, no terrorist organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the worst on French soil since last November when terrorists inspired by the self-described Islamic State militant group killed 130 people in Paris.

The man has been identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a Tunisian-born French passport holder, who had a criminal record and was known to local police, according to The Telegraph.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, noted the symbolic timing of the attack, given that Bastille Day commemorates a key date in the French Revolution that established the democratic French Republic.

It is a "tragic paradox" that the victims were celebrating "liberty, equality and fraternity," Mr. Tusk said at a meeting of Asian and European leaders in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. "We will stand united with the families of victims, the French people, and the government in the fight against violence and hatred."

Others also weighed in:

  • Spanish Foreign Minister José García-Margallo also delivered condolences from Mongolia: "We are very sorry and very much with the French people and the French government."
  • Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said, "We condemn such an attack, maybe a terrorist attack, but such an attack in France again."
  • Britain's newly appointed foreign secretary and former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said he was "Shocked and saddened by the appalling events in Nice, and the terrible loss of life."
  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said "we strongly condemn terrorism of all forms. We express our condolences to the victims and we will fight all kinds of terrorism."
  • Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned the violence and said it was a reminder that "no country is immune from terrorist attacks," during a press conference in Perth. "We support our friends and partners in France and we join with others around the world in hoping that this will be the end of this type of horrific incident that is targeted at unarmed civilians," she told reporters.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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