The month-long UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament held throughout France was labelled as a major event with a high threat level. Increased security presence was felt at the venues, and the public was kept safe for the most part, with the exception of some incidents with so-called hooligans.
Tragically, though, just days after the tournament ended, an attack was carried out during the heart of French National Day celebrations. Bastille Day, or La Fête nationale, is a holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Bastille Day marks the beginning of republican democracy in France, and carries with it great significance and symbolism to the French culture that has now been tragically tainted.
The Bastille Day attack is the worst attack since the November 2015 attacks in Paris. Around 30,000 people were gathered in Nice, France’s second-most-popular tourist destination, to celebrate and watch the fireworks over the Mediterranean Sea on the beach and the famous Promenade des Anglais, which was cordoned off as a pedestrian zone. Shortly after 22:30 local time, 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, of Franco-Tunisian origin, breached security barriers in his large white truck and began zigzagging down the Promenade des Anglais for up to two kilometres (1.25 miles). The attacker had a pistol and a larger gun in addition to numerous fake grenades and weapons. He began firing at police as they were attempting to stop him, before he was ultimately shot dead.
One day after the event, 84 people are dead, and approximately 50 others remain in the hospital with life-or-death injuries, so the death toll will likely rise. Currently, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and officials are unsure if the perpetrator acted alone. However, Islamic State (IS or ISIS) and Al Qaeda have both released global calls for their supporters to use vehicles as deadly weapons. Bouhlel was known to police as a career criminal, to neighbours as a loner, and was estranged by his wife. French authorities’ new mobile app—designed to send immediate alerts in the event of an attack—has been criticized, since the alert was delayed for 3 hours.
France will now extend its national state of emergency, due to end on July 26, for an additional three months. For individuals thinking about travelling to France, we urge you to keep it on your list. Although there have been a number of attacks on French soil over the past year-and-a-half, the chances of witnessing an event like this are exceedingly rare. One of the best steps you can take is to educate yourself before you travel. There are many publicly available resources and government websites that contain up-to-date country information to help mitigate your exposure to various risks, including everything from car accidents to terror attacks. Understanding what do in the extremely unlikely event you are caught in an attack is crucial in order to save your life and others’.
Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport is currently open and operating according to schedule, although there was a brief closure earlier on July 15 day due to a suspicious package. If you wish to cancel upcoming travel to France, we recommend you contact your travel agency and/or travel insurance provider to determine what options are available to you.
For more travel advice and warnings, see our recent article entitled Summer Travel Warnings for Europe.