Geopolitics

One Year After Nice Attack, Broken Lives And Fears Of Crowds

The French city of Nice was torn apart by the terrorist truck attack that killed 86 and left 458 injured during national holiday festivities. Victims struggle to return to normalcy.

Blind curves along the Nice waterfront
Blind curves along the Nice waterfront
Angélique Négroni

NICE — "We were hit by a truck." This is how 5-year-old Teylan introduces himself as he opens the door of the family's Nice apartment. Last July 14, the family was in the path of the 19-ton truck driven by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel in a gruesome terrorist attack along the seaside Promenade des Anglais as Nice celebrated France's national holiday.

Each member of the Rambeloson family of five survived, but the father and two of the children were seriously injured. Adding to the drama was that Tyrian, then just eight months old, had disappeared during the chaotic aftermath of the truck attack that killed 86 and left injured 458 people. As his panicked parents were imagining the worst, the infant was rescued by a passerby.

One year later, the attack is as present as ever among this family that traces its origins to Madagascar. Physical wounds were taken care of, but the trauma is far from being healed. Tantely Rambeloson, the 37-year-old father, suffered a head injury, and is now subject to severe headaches. The injured leg of Landy, the 6-year-old daughter, has to be monitored, as well as the jaw of her Telyan, which was fractured in two places.

But by now, it's mostly the memories of these hours of horror that suddenly come back. Hidden in the dark corners of the mind, these suppressed images come back to haunt the children, day and night. "They scream in their sleep and are very agitated during the day," the mother, Lalatiana Rambeloson says.

She says her own brain "hit pause" during the attack. "I still don't remember everything," the mother says.

This natural human shield has helped to protect the young woman, who is now able to insist that everything is fine and keep smiling in the face of visitors. But the reality is that, like her husband, fear now largely dictates Lalatiana Rambeloson's life. Noise and crowds terrify her, and everyday activities are as scary as crossing a minefield.

I want to leave Nice

The father now finds that he prefers to wait until the last minute to drop his children off at school, sure to not be there when other parents and kids are congregating on the sidewalk. In the apartment, kept dark behind closed curtains, Tantely Rambeloson says the toll is adding up: "I'm tired." The man we met last September to recount the story of his rescued infant is now lacking energy and unable to work. "I want to leave Nice," he declares.

For the victims who had gathered for the July 14 fireworks along the Nice's emblematic Promenade, the city itself is a source of pain. Vincent Delhomel-Desmarest, who rescued people during the attack and has helped lead the fight for victims' rights afterward, has been hospitalized for weeks. "Every attack abroad brings back the memories," he says in a hushed voice.

To avoid a breakdown, some use action as their therapy. Like Ali Charrihi, whose mother Fatima was the first victim. On that night, he was with his family on the "Prom," and his mind is filled with horrible images. His daughter being pushed away just in time by her cousin to escape the deadly wheels, one of his sons petrified by the horror, and his father fainting as he saw his wife's motionless body.

Ali, who wants to go back to his job as a security agent, is fighting for his children's future, and a path to survival for himself and others. Through the association "Mère patrie" (motherland), he is trying to fight against everything that creates a base for radical Islam in his working-class Ariane neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Nice. The fight against the youth's inertia, radicalization on internet, religious pretexts to mislead young believers has become his mission. The soccer coaching he's always done for a youth team in Ariane Wednesday evenings is no longer just a hobby — it has become his moral duty.

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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