The names of the 86 victims who died in the July 14 attack in the French city of Nice were read aloud, and a white rose for each was pinned to a monument, during a national ceremony on Saturday marking three months since the killings.
Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, before police shot him dead.
“Three months ago here, on our national day … it was supposed to be joyous. It became hell. In four minutes, just four minutes, a truck at high speed, transformed the Promenade des Anglais into a cemetery,” President Francois Hollande said.
The ceremony was attended by survivors, victims’ families and French political leaders from the government and opposition.
“We have listened to the names of the 86 people whose lives were suddenly interrupted,” Hollande said, adding that the oldest was a 92 years-old Italian who died with his partner and two friends.
The youngest was just over two years old, and from Nice. She died alongside her cousin, her grandmother and a friend, he said.
Hollande said France, which is engaged in the fight against radical Islamist militancy in the Middle East and North Africa, will not back down despite several attacks on French soil aimed, he said, at creating divisions and stigmatisation.
Deadly attacks by Islamist militants in Paris, Nice and elsewhere have raised questions about the place in society of France’s large Muslim and Arab population, and spilled over into the campaign for next year’s presidential election.
“What was struck on July 14 was national unity. It is the monstrous aim of the terrorists; attack some to scare others and unleash violence to create divisions,” Hollande said.
“This evil enterprise will fail. Unity, freedom and humanity will ultimately prevail.”