French minister criticized over Nice attack police claims


PARIS (AP) — France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve acknowledged Thursday that there were no national police stationed at the entrance to the pedestrianized walkway in Nice during the Bastille Day truck attack that killed 84 people.

In what represents a backtracking from previous claims, Cazeneuve said only local police, who are more lightly armed, were guarding the entrance when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove his truck in on the sidewalk.

In a speech two days after the attack, Cazeneuve said “national police were present and very present on the Promenade des Anglais” and suggested that their cars were blocking the walkway entrance.

In a move seen aimed to diffuse criticism, Cazeneuve also launched an internal police investigation into the handling of the attack, the results of which will be published next week, according to French President Francois Hollande who pledged that any police shortfalls will be addressed.

Hollande said “there’s no room for polemics, there’s only room for transparency.”

His comments come after French newspaper Liberation said Cazeneuve lied about the whereabouts of the national police officers and cars and accused French authorities of being lacking transparency.

Using witness statements and photos in its Thursday edition, Liberation showed that only one local police car was stationed at the entrance to the walkway.

In a statement, Cazeneuve accused the paper of conspiracy theories and maintains that several “heroic” national police — who killed the attacker after an exchange of fire — were stationed further down the promenade.

Five suspects held in custody in relation to the attack are being handed to investigating judges in Paris on Thursday who are expected to file preliminary charges against them. French authorities have been looking for possible accomplices to Bouhlel.