Five detained over Nice attack to face judge

Latest Update: July 21, 2016 | 140 Views

Paris: Five people detained after last week´s massacre in Nice are due to appear before a judge Thursday, as France is set to pass a law extending the state of emergency.

The government is scrambling to reassure a jittery population after the country´s third major attack in 18 months killed 84 people out celebrating Bastille Day.

Four men and one woman aged between 22 and 40 are due to appear before the court for links to Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel who ploughed a truck into the crowded promenade in Nice.

They include a 40-year-old whom Bouhlel had known for a long time and a 38-year-old Albanian, detained along with his girlfriend and suspected of providing the attacker with an automatic pistol.

A 22-year-old man who received an SMS from Bouhlel shortly before he began his rampage will also appear in court, as well as another man who had been in contact with Bouhlel over weapons.

Like Bouhlel, none of those detained were known to French intelligence prior to the attack.

France´s National Assembly and Senate are also set to pass a bill extending the state of emergency which gives police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest for six months.

It is the fourth time the security measures have been extended since Daesh (Islamic State) militants struck Paris in November, killing 130 people at restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium.

On Wednesday, MPs also voted to allow authorities to search luggage and vehicles without prior approval from a prosecutor and to allow the police to seize data from computers and mobile phones.

The legislation also makes it easier for authorities to shut down places of worship where calls for violence and hate are made.

The Daesh (Islamic State) group has said the Tunisian driver was one of its “soldiers” but investigators say that while he showed a recent interest in jihadist activity, there was no evidence he acted on behalf of the extremist group.

The group Wednesday posted a video apparently shot in Iraq, where IS holds swaths of territory, showing two French-speaking jihadists threatening more attacks against France.

French Prime Minster Manuel Valls had warned earlier in the week that the country will face more attacks as it struggles to handle extremists returning from jihad in the Middle East and those radicalized at home by devouring propaganda on the internet.

Political tensions

As part of the government´s reaction to the Nice assault which has exposed it to tough questions over security failures a call has gone out for volunteers in the reserve forces.

“We can say that France, with you, is forming a National Guard,” Hollande said Wednesday on a visit to a military training complex in southwest France.

France´s reserve force comprises civilian volunteers in the police, army and paramilitary police, who can be deployed for specific missions.

With elections due next year, the cross-party solidarity seen after last year´s attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket has all but evaporated.

The government has defended its response to the jihadist threat, pointing to a raft of new anti-terror laws and the deployment of thousands of troops to patrol the streets.

A recent parliamentary commission of inquiry said however the new laws had had a “limited impact” on security.

On Thursday, the Liberation newspaper reported that the place where Bouhlel had entered the Nice promenade at the beginning of his deadly rampage had only been guarded by one municipal police car.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has criticized the article as false and Prime Minister Manuel Valls has accused opponents who suggest the Nice attack could have been thwarted of “lying to the French”.



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