French PM booed at memorial service for the victims of Nice
The recriminations following last week’s terror attack in Nice intensified yesterday, with the French Prime Minister booed and heckled at a memorial service for the dead.
The reaction came amid anger at the failure to provide better security at the Bastille Day event and growing fears that France is becoming powerless to prevent further atrocities.
Manuel Valls was confronted with shouts of “murderer” and “resign” as he went to sign the book of condolence at the service on the Promenade des Anglais, where the attack took place.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed at least 84 people and injured hundreds of others as he drove a 19-ton lorry into the crowd at the Bastille Day celebrations last Thursday night. The 31-year-old zigzagged the lorry through the crowd in a bid to cause maximum casualties before police eventually shot him dead.
Families of the dead and some of those injured gathered at the site of the massacre to remember the victims at the Monument du Centenaire.
Tensions are running high over the French government’s handling of security in the country after it was revealed that Mr Estrosi’s request for more security at the Bastille Day event was denied, despite France being in a state of emergency since the Paris attacks in November.
Many blame President Francois Hollande’s socialist administration for falling to prevent the three major terror attacks on French soil in the past 18 months, which have killed more than 200 people.
Mr Hollande and Mr Valls were also booed by onlookers on Friday when they visited the site of the attack.
The president and his interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, observed a minute’s silence for the victims in Paris yesterday.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised the temperature on Sunday night by accusing the government of providing inadequate security.
He said foreign nationals accused of links to radical Islam should be deported.
“Everything that should have been done over the past 18 months was not done,” Mr Sarkozy added.
“We are in war, a total war. Our enemies have no taboos, no borders, no principles. So I will use strong words: it will be us or them.”
He also called for electronic bracelets for anyone suspected of potential radicalisation, and the deportation of anyone suspected of possible terrorism links, direct or indirect.
One local resident, Isabel, who declined to give her surname, said she did not boo but understood why tensions were running high. “They want him (Mr Valls) to resign because he didn’t put enough police on duty on the day,” she explained.
“It’s terrible to say, but we need a stronger prime minister with laws against radicalism.”
Bouhlel was not known to security services but was a habitual criminal with a history of violent offences and mental health problems. It is believed he was radicalised “very recently” by an Algerian member of Isis and was not known as a devout Muslim.
After a special security meeting, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country’s forces in the US-led coalition struck IS targets again overnight and on Saturday.
Seven people are in custody in the probe into the Nice attack. Three of the suspects were brought to French intelligence headquarters in Paris yesterday to face eventual terrorism charges, according to a security official.
At the home of one of the suspects, an Albanian national, investigators found 11 telephones, cocaine and €2,600 (£2,170) in cash, according to an official and the Paris prosecutor’s office.
In London, a minute’s silence was observed by government offices across Whitehall, including 10 Downing Street, as well as by Prime Minister Theresa May during her visit to Wales.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd updated MPs on the situation in Nice with a statement to the House of Commons.
The Home Secretary also revealed that police and spy agencies in the UK had launched a review of security measures in the wake of the Nice attack.
Ms Rudd said the threat from international terrorism in Britain remains at “severe”.