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France opens judicial inquiry into policing during Nice truck attack

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP | Forensic police investigate the bullet-riddled truck that ploughed into a crowd of revellers in Nice on July 14, 2016, killing 86 people.

Nice's public prosecutor said Wednesday a judicial inquiry would investigate allegations of lax security on the night of the Bastille Day truck attack in which 86 people were killed on the French Riviera.

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The inquiry, which follows a lawsuit brought by the parents of one of the victims, is likely to revive the row that followed the carnage on July 14, 2016, amid fury at the authorities' failure to prevent the terrorist attack on one of France's most popular tourist hotspots.

France’s government and police officials have faced fierce criticism since Tunisia-born Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a 19-tonne truck along Nice’s packed sea-front promenade on the country's national holiday, in a murderous rampage that shocked a nation already rattled by terrorist attacks.

Much of the wrangling has focused on policing levels, with the head of the regional government in the southern Nice area, Christian Estrosi, accusing the government of “lying” about the number of officers deployed along the seafront, where the crowd had gathered to watch the traditional fireworks display.

French media said records of police meetings showed officials had initially planned to introduce systematic body searches around the pedestrian area, before abandoning the plan “due to a shortage of personnel”.

Critics have also lamented the failure to erect concrete barriers around the pedestrian zone, noting that such obstacles had been used to protect Nice’s fan zone during the Euro 2016 football tournament. The attacker was able to circumvent the makeshift barriers by driving on the sidewalk, which had been left unguarded.

Following the attack in Nice, parked vehicles and concrete boulders have been used in cities across France to block access to areas with large crowds, including the popular embankments along the River Seine in Paris.

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