15 Jul 2016

France's 18 months of terror

6:17 pm on 15 July 2016

A truck that ploughed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the southern French city of Nice today is the latest in a series of mass killings, bombings and acts of terror to have rocked France.

People comfort one another in Nice after the truck attack.

People comfort one another in Nice after the Bastille Day attack. Photo: AFP

Local officials have said 84 people were killed and dozens injured when the truck smashed into people who had gathered in their thousands to watch a fireworks display celebrating the French national day.

Local government chief Christian Estrosi told media that guns and grenades were found in the truck after the driver was shot dead by police.

French President Francois Hollande has extended by three months the state of emergency put in place following the November terrorist attacks in Paris.

French counter-terrorist investigators are yet to identify the assailant.

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated with the French national colors in tribute to the victims of the November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks.

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated with the French national colours in tribute to the victims of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: AFP

This attack comes eight months and a day after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris and injured hundreds of others.

On 13 November 2015, Parisians were enjoying what seemed to be a normal Friday night when the attackers opened fire and used explosive devices at locations across Paris, including a concert hall, restaurants, bars and outside a stadium.

The scene of the most carnage was an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan music hall, where four gunmen systematically slaughtered more than 80 young people and took dozens of hostages.

Three of the four gunmen detonated explosive belts when they were overrun by anti-terrorist commandos and the fourth was shot dead.

The French government described the violence in Paris as the worst since the World War II.

People are laying flowers outside the Charlie Hebdo offices.

People lay flowers outside the Charlie Hebdo offices in January 2015. Photo: Chris Day

Earlier, in January 2015, 17 people were killed in attacks at, or near, the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket. The three gunmen involved were killed.

France mobilised 10,000 troops to boost security after the attacks and sent thousands of police to protect Jewish schools. Other European countries also went on high alert.

In June 2015, a man was found decapitated at a gas factory near Lyon in France after an attack that police suspect was carried out by one of his employees.

The body was found after a car rammed into the factory, causing an explosion that put France on its highest alert amid fears of a terror attack.

Within hours, a man was arrested who officials said had been investigated over possible ties to radical Islam.

In August 2015, an armed man injured three people on a train between Amsterdam and Paris before being overpowered by passengers, including two off-duty US soldiers.

The passengers were hailed as heroes for tackling the attacker, who was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, an automatic pistol with ammunition clips and a box cutter knife.

And, in June of this year, a man stabbed to death a French couple in their home in Paris saying he was acting on orders from Islamic State to "kill infidels". The man, Larossi Abballa, was killed in a shootout with police.

People light candles in tribute to victims at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels on March 22, 2016.

People light candles in tribute to victims in Brussels. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, in March this year in Belgium, more than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks claimed by Islamic State at a Brussels international airport and in a city metro station.

Two explosions rocked Zaventem Airport about 8am local time, killing 11 people. Another blast at the Maelbeek metro station near the EU's headquarters an hour later left a further 20 people dead.

-RNZ / Reuters / BBC

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