Mourners pay tribute to Nice victims

  • 19/07/2016

Mourners have formed a human chain to remove flowers, candles and other mementos placed along Nice's Promenade des Anglais as spontaneous memorials to the victims of the Bastille Day attack in preparation to open the westbound lane.

Rather than simply dismantling the tributes to the dead, volunteers on Monday evening (local time) moved them from the spots where victims fell along the killer's trajectory to a gazebo in a seaside park, passing the flowers and other mementos hand to hand.

The memorials have become a focal point for grief in the days since an attacker killed 84 people as they strolled along the seaside after the Bastille Day fireworks display.

The operation proceeded solemnly until a column led by police on horseback reached a pile of garbage and rubbish heaped on the site where police shot to death the attacker. The spot has become a flashpoint for anger, transformed from angry notes on the night after the attack to bitter messages scrawled on beach stones the next day to a pile of stinking rubbish by Monday.

The more emotional in the crowd refused to let crews remove the rubbish until police wearing bullet-proof vests arrived and cooled tensions. Garbage collectors threw the refuse into the back of a garbage truck.

The final section of the Promenade des Anglais is scheduled to reopen to traffic on Tuesday morning, following three days of official mourning.

Earlier, at a tribute to the victims of the attack, the crowd jeered France's leaders, Reuters reported.

Before and after a minute's silence, many of the thousands gathered in the south coast resort city chanted "resign, resign" at Manuel Valls, the prime minister. Others yelled "Hollande, resign".

Meanwhile the Paris prosecutor says the truck driver who killed 84 people in Nice had expressed support for the Islamic State (IS) group and searched online for information about the Orlando attack on a gay nightclub.

Prosecutor Francois Molins, who oversees terrorism investigations, said on Monday that slain attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had clearly plotted out the Bastille Day attack, with reconnaissance visits to the beachfront where he ploughed down revellers on Thursday.

Molins described a quick radicalisation of a man who in the past hadn't been religious. He said a review of Bouhlel's computer and phone showed online searches relating to IS, other jihadi groups and violent images.

IS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Paris prosecutor says 13 bodies are still unidentified following the truck attack.

Molins also said officials have begun returning to families the remains of some of those who died in the attack in Nice, on the French Riviera.

The prosecutor spoke hours after thousands of people massed on the waterfront promenade where the attack took place for a moment of silence.

French officials say police found 11 telephones, cocaine and 2600 euros (NZ$4100) in cash at the home of a suspect held in the investigation into the deadly attack.

The suspect is among seven people in custody. Three of the suspects were brought to French intelligence headquarters in Paris on Monday to face eventual terrorism charges, according to a security official.

At the home of one of the suspects, an Albanian national, investigators found the phones and cocaine, according to that official and the Paris prosecutor's office.

They wouldn't elaborate on the relationship between the suspect and Bouhlel.