Duterte: We share grief of France
THE PHILIPPINES condemned on Saturday the “brutal and violent” attack that killed 84 people in France on Bastille Day, with President Duterte vowing to join Paris in its fight against terrorism.
“I would like to take this opportunity to make a public statement to say that we share the grief of France in the rampage of multiple murders of their citizens,” Mr. Duterte said in a statement.
“We condemn the brutal and violent way the people were run over by a truck as a terrorist act. We join the rest of the world in mourning and express our solidarity with France against terrorism, against what is fundamentally evil,” he said.
Duterte’s statement was echoed by the Catholic Church, which branded the attack “a dastardly act.”
“Terrorists are getting creative and vicious and are showing a complete disregard for the beauty of humanity and respect for life,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“Let’s hope that one day, human solidarity and the unity of nations from around the world would put an end to this evil called terrorism,” he said.
France on Saturday began a period of national mourning as investigators tried to establish if the Tunisian who rammed a 19-ton truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day was motivated by radical Islam.
But authorities said the 31-year-old man behind the attack, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was not known to French intelligence sources as a radical. (See story below.)
Some 30,000 people had thronged the Promenade Des Anglais to watch a fireworks display on a night which turned to horror as the speeding truck left mangled bodies strewn across the palm-fringed road.
3 days of mourning
President Francois Hollande said the country would observe three days of mourning as he warned that the death toll could rise further, with more than 50 people still fighting for their lives.
The massacre, which comes after two major terror attacks in France in 2015, has given rise to questions over intelligence and security failings and how to stop such unsophisticated, yet deadly, assaults.
Hollande was due to meet with his security chiefs on Saturday and the country was expected to observe a minute of silence at midday.
Investigators were piecing together a profile of the driver, a man with a record of petty crime, but no known connection to terrorist groups.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the attacker probably had links to radical Islam, but Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve cautioned that it was too early to make the connection.
At an apartment block in the Quartier des Abattoirs, on the outskirts of Nice, neighbors described the father of three as a volatile man, prone to drinking and womanizing, and in the process of divorcing his wife.
His father said Bouhlel had violent episodes during which “he broke everything he found around him.”
“Each time he had a crisis, we took him to the doctor who gave him medication,” Mohamed Mondher Lahouaiej Bouhlel told BFM television.
His son hadn’t visited Tunisia in four years and hadn’t stayed in contact with his family, he said.
“What I know is that he didn’t pray, he didn’t go to the mosque, he had no ties to religion,” said the father, noting that Bouhlel didn’t respect the Islamic fasting rituals during the month of Ramadan.
Bouhlel had had a series of run-ins with the law for threatening behavior, domestic violence and theft over the past six years. In March, he was given a six-month suspended sentence by a Nice court for a road-rage incident.
His court-appointed lawyer, Corentin Delobel, said he observed “no radicalization whatsoever,” and Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Bouhlel was never placed on a watch list for radicals. With an AFP report
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