From Paris to Lille to Nice – thousands of people gathered at prominent public spaces on Monday to pay homage to the 84 victims of the Bastille Day truck terror attack here, less than a year after similar events were held across the country for the Paris attacks.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls faced some criticism and boos as he participated in an event of collective grief at the Monument du Centenaire near the Promenade des Anglias in the Riviera city of Nice. He was accompanied by health minister Marisol Touraise and noted footballer Hugo Lloris.
The country fell silent as an emotional minute's silence was observed for the victims of the attack.
The atmosphere on Nice’s sunny promenade complemented by the blue sea continued to resemble sullen normalcy, with bouquets and messages being left at several locations. At some venues of grief, distraught individuals could be seen being consoled by friends and family.
Investigators found CCTV footage that showed the Tunisian attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, driving through the Promenade des Anglais last week on Tuesday and Wednesday, ostensibly to prepare for Thursday’s attack that has been claimed by the Islamic State. The group described the attacker as its “soldier”.
However, French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said investigators were yet to find any definite link between the lorry driver and terror elements.
Six people remained in custody, with three of them transferred to Levallois-Perret, near Paris, for questioning on the premises of the Directorate of Internal Security.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy joined growing calls of criticism against the Francois Hollande government for not doing enough to provide security.
Speaking on French television, Sarkozy said, "Democracy must not be weak, nor simply commemorate. Democracy must say 'We will win the war'.” He said he supported stronger measures like expulsion of radicalised Muslims, and electronic tagging for those at risk of radicalisation.
However, Valls has refused to consider extreme measures: "I see too in the escalation of the proposals, to climb the temptation to put into question the rule of law. The authority is for me an essential value, but to question the rule of law would undermine our values and would be the greatest renunciation."
Referring to US presidential candidate Donald Trump's controversial plan to ban the entry of Muslims to his country, Valls said: "The response to the Islamic State cannot be the ‘Trumpisation’ of minds.”
France has extended the period of emergency announced after the November 2015 Paris attack by three more months and pledged to strengthen its counter-terror actions in Iraq and Syria.