French PM jeered at memorial service for Nice attack victims
THE recriminations following last week's terror attack in Nice intensified on Monday with the French Prime Minister booed and heckled at a memorial service amid anger at the failure to provide better security at the Bastille Day event and growing fears that the country 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 last week.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel killed at least 84 people and injured hundreds of others as he drove a 19-tonne 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. Mr Valls attended the service alongside the Mayor of Nice, Philippe Pradal, the regional president Christian Estrosi and the reigning prince of nearby Monaco, Prince Albert.
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 now killed more than 200 people.
Mr Hollande and Mr Valls were also booed and jeered by onlookers on Friday when they visited the site of the attack on the promenade with Mr Estrosi. The President and his Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, observed a minute's silence for the victims in Paris yesterday.
The 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 must be deported from France.
"Everything that should have been done over the past 18 months was not done," Mr Sarkozy said. "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 called for electronic bracelets for anyone suspected of potential radicalisation, and the deportation of anyone suspected of possible terrorism links, direct or indirect.
Mr Cazeneuve hit back, listing a series of laws and extra police forces created under Mr Hollande's presidency "to face a threat that France wasn't prepared for" when he took over from Sarkozy in 2012.
One local resident, Isabel, who declined to give her surname, said she did not boo but understood why tensions are running high. She said: "They want him [Mr Valls] to resign because he didn't put enough police on duty on the day. I was there [on Thursday] and didn't see police.
"It's terrible to say but we need a stronger prime minister with laws against radicalism. I am very sad. It has broken families apart for nothing."
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, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French forces in the US-led coalition struck IS targets again overnight and on Saturday. French warplanes have been involved in the operation in Iraq and to a lesser degree in Syria.
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 euros (£2,170) in cash, according to a security official and the Paris prosecutor's office.