Eighty four people are confirmed dead and 200 injured after a truck deliberately ploughed through crowds celebrating France’s national holiday in the southern city of Nice.
The driver of the truck drove two kilometres through the packed Promenade des Anglais at around 23:00 local time, before being shot dead by French police
He zigzagged wildly through the crowds and fired at police before they killed him.
The assailant targeted people leaving the fireworks, as well as an audience listening to an orchestra, and others who were out for an evening stroll.
A journalist with the Nice Matin newspaper reported from the scene that there was “a lot of blood”.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said 10 children and teenagers were among those killed.
Prosecutor Molins said the attacker was 31-year-old Tunisian born Nice resident Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who worked as a delivery driver.
He said Bouhlel was known to police for threats and violence but was totally unknown to the intelligence services and there were no indications he had been radicalised.
Molins told reporters nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack but it bears the hallmarks of a terrorist organisation. The investigation will ascertain if Bouhlel was working alone or in a group.
Bouhlel had only one criminal conviction – in March of this year – according to French Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said.
“There was an altercation between him and another driver and he hurled a wooden pallet at the man,” Urvoas told reporters.
As it was his first conviction, Bouhlel was given a suspended sentence and had to contact police once a week, which he did, Urvoas added.
A white, 19-tonne rented lorry, 15 metres long was steered through the promenade as revellers dispersed following the annual 14th of July fireworks display.
A 7.65 millimetre automatic pistol and additional ammunition was found in the cab of the vehicle along with three replica guns and a grenade.
Police eventually stopped the trail of carnage by shooting the man through the windscreen after he had fired at them.
The Promenade des Anglais (English walk) is an extremely popular route that follows the seaside in the tourist town of Nice.
Flanked by restaurants and cafés on the land side and by the beach on the other, it incorporates a wide pavement and cycle route.
In the early hours of the morning, President Francois Hollande addressed the nation. Declaring the incident a terrorist attack, he announced he would extend a state of emergency due to end this month for a further three months.
He called up the national reserve to provide extra military manpower and reiterated his resolve to strike at ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq.
President Francois Hollande said the attack was of “an undeniable terrorist nature”.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls has declared three days of national mourning for the victims from Saturday.
A state of emergency, in place since November’s Paris attacks carried out by militant from the Islamic State group, in which 130 people died, has been extended by three months.
World leaders have offered their condolences to France for the third time in less than two years.
US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and European and Asian leaders meeting for a summit in Mongolia joined in condemnation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Mongolia: “All of us who have come together at the ASEM summit are united in our feeling of disbelief at the attack of mass murder in Nice.”
Putin, whose relations with the West have been strained over Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria, went on Russian television to convey his condolences to Hollande after apparently being unable to reach him by telephone.
“Dear Francois, Russia knows what terror is and the threats that it creates for all of us. Our people have more than once encountered similar tragedies and is deeply affected by the incident, sympathises with the French people, and feels solidarity with them,” he said, adding that Russian citizens were among the victims in Nice.
In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who is expected to do well in next year’s presidential election, faulted the country’s response to past attacks.
“The war on the scourge of Islamist fundamentalism has not begun. It is urgent now that it be declared,” she said on Twitter.