According to Christian Estrosi, “no threat had been identified” in Nice

At the specially composed Court of Assizes of Paris,

Minister of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, mayor of Nice since 2008, Christian Estrosi is a professional speaker. Called this Thursday to the bar of the specially constituted assize court, he delivers a testimony which contrasts with that of the victims of the attack committed on July 14, 2016 on the Promenade des Anglais, who have come to drop off in recent weeks. Dark blue suit, neatly combed hair, the city councilor, who has prepared notes, is sorely lacking in spontaneity. Pouring into a lyricism that rings false at times, this “son of Nice” tried, for nearly four hours, to answer the court’s questions about possible security vulnerabilities the night of the attack.

“We are not here to seek any responsibility on your part in the facts with which the accused are accused”, recalls in the preamble the president of the court, Laurent Raviot who called as a witness the mayor of the city under the discretionary power . Indeed, the search for possible flaws in the security system has been, since December 2016, the subject of a judicial investigation to Nice parallel. Pending the conclusions of the investigations, the magistrate wishes that the testimony of Christian Estrosi, 67, can “as far as possible, shed light on the murderous journey of the author of this attack, understand how it was carried out, and s ‘it would have been possible to prevent it’.

“Legitimate questions”

At the time, the witness had been elected to head the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Due to multiple mandates, he had exchanged his place at the town hall with his deputy in charge of security, Philippe Pradal, for 16 months. But to hear him, this replacement was above all purely symbolic. Because it is him that the prefect, the President of the Republic, François Hollande, and even Pope Francis, called immediately after the attack.

After recounting some childhood memories mixing Nice, General de Gaulle, Simone Veil, and René Cassin, Estrosi agrees to get to the heart of the matter. Of many civil parties “Complained about what appeared to them to be a lack of security for the demonstration” organized that evening on the Promenade des Anglais, underlines President Raviot. Nothing to do, according to them, with the device put in place to secure the fan zone during the European Cup which took place a few days before the attack. Christian Estrosi recognizes that these are “legitimate questions” and he intends to answer them, “even if they do not all fall within the scope of the current trial”.

Artificial intelligence

One thing is certain: neither the many municipal police officers in the city, nor the 1,386 surveillance cameras – including 21 on the Promenade des Anglais – installed in the streets, were able to prevent Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel from preparing his attack and to drive his truck into the crowd and kill 86 people and injure 400 others. How to explain that the assailant was not noticed when he passed a dozen times on the scene, on foot, by bicycle or at the wheel of his 19 tons, four days before the facts? “There was no reason to justify special surveillance of the place of the demonstration before it was held”, assures the mayor.

In fact, he says, these “tracings” were not analyzed as such until after the attack. They could not “be detected by the human eye” and only “artificial intelligence, with algorithms”, would have made it possible to understand that something abnormal was happening. But “the regulations do not allow” today the establishment of a device allowing “facial recognition” of a suspect, or to identify “an unauthorized presence, a prohibition not respected”, he regrets. .

The president of the court, he does not understand how 40 minutes of video, showing the route of the terrorist before his act could disappear. The mayor of Nice kicks in touch and is content to evoke “the excellent collaboration” of the municipal police, in charge of the urban supervision center of the city, with the national police.

“No slacking off” on safety

As for the security device put in place on the evening of the attack, it had, he assures us, been the subject of discussions with the regional prefecture, in which he did not personally participate. Thus, 42 municipal police officers had been mobilized to carry out “traffic missions around the security perimeter”, and 34 others were on duty “but not required by state services”. “No threat had been identified” in Nice, he insists. “This July 14 attack marks the first attack of this type on European soil,” adds the elected official. Christian Estrosi also swears that there has been “no relaxation” in terms of security in relation to the Euro football. As for the evening of July 14, there was no concrete barrier to prevent the intrusion of a vehicle into the fan zone installed on the Promenade des Anglais during the competition.

“The attack was perpetrated by an ignoble barbarian. It was he who sowed hatred and chaos and he was helped by accomplices that the court has to judge, ”concludes the mayor. The president takes it up: “It will be up to the court to determine whether Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel benefited from complicity. Of the eight defendants, only three are under prosecution for terrorist criminal association. None of the eight defendants is prosecuted for complicity.

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According to Christian Estrosi, “no threat had been identified” in Nice

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