Attack in Nice: How France’s vacation playground became extremist hotbed

Published 11:02 AM EDT, Fri July 15, 2016
02:00 - Source: CNN
Attack in Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel?
French Government
Now playing
02:00
Attack in Nice: Who was Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel?
Obama comments terror attack Nice France
CNN
Obama comments terror attack Nice France
Now playing
01:45
Obama: We stand with our French friends
French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower on January 8, 2015 in Paris as the capital was placed under the highest alert status a day after heavily armed gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and shot dead at least 12 people in the deadliest attack in France in four decades. A  huge manhunt for two brothers suspected of massacring 12 people in an Islamist attack at a satirical French weekly zeroed in on a northern town Thursday after the discovery of one of the getaway cars. As thousands of police tightened their net, the country marked a rare national day of mourning for Wednesday's bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the worst terrorist attack in France for half a century. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY        (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images
French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower on January 8, 2015 in Paris as the capital was placed under the highest alert status a day after heavily armed gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and shot dead at least 12 people in the deadliest attack in France in four decades. A huge manhunt for two brothers suspected of massacring 12 people in an Islamist attack at a satirical French weekly zeroed in on a northern town Thursday after the discovery of one of the getaway cars. As thousands of police tightened their net, the country marked a rare national day of mourning for Wednesday's bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the worst terrorist attack in France for half a century. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:06
Extreme authority: France's 'state of emergency'
Baseball coach remembers France attack victim sot ath_00000000.jpg
Baseball coach remembers France attack victim sot ath_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:31
Baseball coach honors France victims
Nice Attack Paul Delane Interview_00004422.jpg
Nice Attack Paul Delane Interview_00004422.jpg
Now playing
01:55
Nice survivor: This saved my life
truck driver info france terror attack_00000412.jpg
CNN
truck driver info france terror attack_00000412.jpg
Now playing
02:17
Why is France the target of so many terror attacks?
Policemen walk on the site where a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15, 2016.
An attack in Nice where a man rammed a truck into a crowd of people left 84 dead and another 18 in a "critical condition", interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said Friday. An unidentified gunman barrelled the truck two kilometres (1.3 miles) through a crowd that had been enjoying a fireworks display for France's national day before being shot dead by police.
 / AFP / Valery HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
VALERY HACHE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Policemen walk on the site where a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15, 2016. An attack in Nice where a man rammed a truck into a crowd of people left 84 dead and another 18 in a "critical condition", interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said Friday. An unidentified gunman barrelled the truck two kilometres (1.3 miles) through a crowd that had been enjoying a fireworks display for France's national day before being shot dead by police. / AFP / Valery HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:27
Sources: Driver was not on French radar
Getty Images
Now playing
00:59
Truck rams crowd in Nice, France
Now playing
01:18
Witness: There were so many people on the ground
Twitter/@TintinBeubar
Now playing
00:52
Video shows truck driving through crowd in Nice, France
nice france truck gunshots sot nr_00001529.jpg
nice france truck gunshots sot nr_00001529.jpg
Now playing
01:23
Video allegedly shows gunfire during attack
French President Francois Hollande
AFP
French President Francois Hollande
Now playing
00:48
French president: Horror has struck France
Fire department ambulances and vehicles are parked near the scene of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A spokesman for France's Interior Ministry says there are likely to be "several dozen dead" after a truck drove into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. (AP Photo/Christian Alminana)
Christian Alminana/AP
Fire department ambulances and vehicles are parked near the scene of an attack after a truck drove on to the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. A spokesman for France's Interior Ministry says there are likely to be "several dozen dead" after a truck drove into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. (AP Photo/Christian Alminana)
Now playing
02:14
France attack witness: Had to get the hell out of there
Police officers, firefighters and rescue workers are seen at the site of an attack on July 15, 2016, after a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice.
A truck ploughed into a crowd in the French resort of Nice on July 14, leaving at least 60 dead and scores injured in an "attack" after a Bastille Day fireworks display, prosecutors said on July 15.  / AFP / Valery HACHE        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
VALERY HACHE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers, firefighters and rescue workers are seen at the site of an attack on July 15, 2016, after a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice. A truck ploughed into a crowd in the French resort of Nice on July 14, leaving at least 60 dead and scores injured in an "attack" after a Bastille Day fireworks display, prosecutors said on July 15. / AFP / Valery HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:21
Hillary Clinton: It's clear we are at war
Now playing
01:27
French media: Truck occupant, police exchanged gunfire
Police officers and rescued workers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016.
VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers and rescued workers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 14, 2016.
Now playing
00:50
Photo of truck in Nice shows bullet holes
tony molina nice france truck ran into crowd sot _00002101.jpg
BFMTV
tony molina nice france truck ran into crowd sot _00002101.jpg
Now playing
01:05
Witness: People screaming, running everywhere in Nice
Twitter/Yannick/BFMTV
Now playing
01:14
Video shows chaos in Nice, France
nice france holmes walker tell_00003209.jpg
CNN
nice france holmes walker tell_00003209.jpg
Now playing
00:47
Official: People dead after truck hits crowd in Nice

Story highlights

Before deadly Bastille Day attack Nice already known as extremist hotspot

Poverty, unemployment and lack of integration cited as problems in resort city

Former group based in region were once known among France's most dangerous

(CNN) —  

The postcard perfect French coastal resort of Nice seems an unlikely flashpoint for extremist violence, but this week’s deadly attack spotlights a dangerous undercurrent of radicalization.

Nice is known for its beaches and traditional architecture, but law enforcement and experts on terrorism say its suburbs are unhappier places that have recently become breeding grounds for Islamic militancy.

That appears to have reached a deadly crisis point with the attack on a Bastille Day holiday crowd that left more than 80 people dead and others critically injured.

The incident follows previous extremist strikes in France – including November 2015’s massacres in Paris and January 2015’s attack focused on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo – that have plunged the country into a state of emergency.

In the aftermath of the latest killings, as questions are asked over whether the bloodshed could have been prevented, scrutiny will fall on what was known about Nice’s problems with extremism.