Leaders across South and Southeast Asia on Friday joined an international outcry against a truck attack in the French Riviera that killed at least 84 people and injured scores more as France was celebrating its national day.
“Terrorists bring the world’s civilization into conflict. That’s what they’re waiting for,” Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, chairman of the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, one of the most influential Islamic groups in Indonesia – home to the world’s largest Muslim population – told BenarNews.
The massacre unfolded when a lone gunman reportedly rammed a truck into a crowd of revelers who had gathered for a fireworks show late Thursday along the seafront Promenade des Anglais in the city of Nice. Afterward the French president went on national television in the early hours of Friday to declare the attack an act of terrorism.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed shock and anger over the attack.
“Appalled by the horrific attack in Nice. I strongly condemn such mindless acts of violence. My thoughts are with the families of deceased,” Modi said via Twitter. “India shares the pain & stands firmly with our French sisters & brothers in this hour of immense sadness.”
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo also tweeted out his condolences to the French people.
“The attack in France was very cruel. Indonesia is united in solidarity,” he said.
“Horrified by the cowardly attack in Nice. Must stand firm against terrorist atrocities. Our thoughts & prayers are with the people of France,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted on his part.
‘France is in tears’: Hollande
The attack, the third major terrorist attack to strike France within the past 18 months, came as the French people were celebrating Bastille Day, marking the overthrow of the monarchy in 1789 and the founding of the French Republic.
The tricolor French flag was lowered to half-staff on Friday as the nation prepared for three days of mourning, which will start on Saturday, reports said.
“France was hit on its National Day, 14 July, the symbol of freedom, because human rights are denied by the fanatics, and because France is obviously their target…,” French President Francois Hollande told a nation grieving again.
“France is in tears, it’s deeply distressed, but it’s strong and will always be stronger – I assure you of that – than the fanatics who seek to attack it today,” he added, according to a statement released by the French government.
The United Nations Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) were among international bodies that joined many countries in condemning the attack.
Its death toll included at least 10 children, and 202 people were hurt, including 52 in critical condition, BBC News reported.
French authorities identified the gunman, who was shot and killed by police, as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born delivery man who lived in the Nice area and who was known to police but not previously linked to any extremist groups, according to the BBC.
According to news reports, no militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, supporters of the extremist group Islamic State were celebrating the massacre in Nice on the internet, according to SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based website that monitors online communications by extremists.
A bloody Ramadan
The attack occurred four days after the end of the European football championships, a month-long tournament hosted by France under extra-heavy security.
French fans had rejoiced as their national team made it to the final. But on Sunday Les Bleus lost to Portugal in the title match played at the Stade de France, outside Paris, the same sporting venue targeted in an attack by IS-linked terrorists on the night of Nov. 13, 2015, when France was playing Germany in a friendly match.
An explosion outside the stadium was among a series of coordinated attacks that killed 130 people in Paris that night. Ten months earlier, 12 people were killed in an attack carried out by French-born IS sympathizers on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine.
No acts of terrorism took place in France as Euro 2016 was being played out on its soil, but the month was marred by a series of Ramadan-time attacks claimed by IS or carried out by IS-inspired attackers, which killed hundreds of people overseas.
Those attacks over the course of June and early July targeted a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Istanbul’s international airport, a shopping district in Baghdad and the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter. Smaller-scale attacks linked to IS took place at a nightclub near Kuala Lumpur and a police station in Solo, in Indonesia’s Central Java province.
“I strongly condemn Thursday’s barbaric attack in the strongest terms. I also express my sorrow for the loss of so many innocent lives, including children,” said Abdul Hamid, the president of Bangladesh, which is still reeling from the IS-claimed attack on July 1 that left 29 people dead, including seven suspected terrorists.
Through his spokesman, Hamid said he was praying for the salvation of the souls of the people who died in Nice.
“I urge all to put up a united resistance against terrorism of all forms,” Hamid said.
Officials from the Indian and Indonesian governments said that, so far, they had received no reports from France about citizens killed or hurt in Thursday’s attack.
But according to Malaysia’s ambassador to France, a Malaysian university student was injured in the attack.
“The situation on the ground in Paris is calm and, in Nice, security is a bit more tight due to the tragedy. As for Malaysians in Paris or those planning to visit Paris, we continuously remind them to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings,” Ambassador Ibrahim Abdullah told BenarNews on Friday.
The student, whom he declined to name, is enrolled at the Singapore University of Technology and Design and was on exchange program in France. He was being treated for his injuries at the Pasteur Hospital in Nice, the ambassador said.
In Bangkok, Thailand’s foreign ministry issued a statement.
“The Thai Foreign Ministry was informed by the embassy in Paris that it is closely monitoring the situation, and we advise all those in France and those planning to go to France to avoid commuting to public, mass gatherings,” the ministry said.