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Watchdog denies French police understaffed during Nice attack

Dominique Faget, AFP | The director of French police’s internal affairs division, Marie-France Moneger-Guyomarc'h, gives a press conference in Paris on July 27, 2016

France’s police watchdog group on Wednesday rejected allegations that officers tasked with securing a Bastille Day celebration in the city of Nice were understaffed when a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds watching fireworks, killing dozens.

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The internal affairs division said the number of police on hand on the fateful night was appropriate given that there was no specific warning of a terror threat before the attack.

France’s Socialist government has been accused of not doing enough to prevent Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel from reaching Nice’s pedestrianised Promenade des Anglais using an apparently unblocked route and killing 84 people on July 14.

“For an event that was not exceptional ... and without knowledge of any particular threat, the overall police operation was not inadequate,” Marie-France Moneger-Guyomarc’h, director of France’s General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN) told a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Moneger-Guyomarc’h said security agencies had made contingency plans for what she called the “classic” threat of armed individuals or bomb-carrying militants attacking the crowd.

“Clearly the security operation was not designed for this type of attack, the novelty and intensity of which were beyond all expectations,” she said.

She said that 64 national police and 42 municipal police were deployed for the event.

Opposition politicians had contested the figures for police deployment, with regional president Christian Estrosi slamming "state lies".

They stepped up their attacks after the head of Nice's video surveillance network, Sandra Bertin, said that interior ministry staff had pressured her to indicate the presence of national police force officers at certain points where the attack unfurled.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who has faced the brunt of the accusations, rejected the assertions, in turn accusing the opposition of almost daily lies and political broadsides.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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