PARIS – Authorities in Nice are protesting against a request from French anti-terror police to delete surveillance camera images of last week's deadly truck attack, amid growing questions over the scale of the police presence at the time.
The city received a letter this week from the SDAT anti-terrorism agency, obtained by The Associated Press, saying images of the July 14 attack should be destroyed.
An official with the national police said the request was motivated by concern that the images could leak and be used for jihadi propaganda. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
A lawyer for the city submitted a protest letter Friday saying Nice officials would not comply for legal, administrative and technical reasons. But the lawyer also notes that the images are scheduled to be automatically deleted anyway on Sunday, according to Nice City Hall practice of deleting CCTV images after 10 days. Investigators will keep copies of the images.
The dispute comes as the government faces growing criticism over security measures the night of the attack, and the cameras could show where and how police were deployed.
Top regional official Christian Estrosi, of the conservative opposition Republicans party, had argued for tougher security for Nice's Bastille Day fireworks celebrations.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve acknowledged Thursday that only lightly armed local police were guarding the entrance to a pedestrian zone on the Nice beachfront when driver Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel sped past a barricade and ran over people, killing 84. Cazeneuve had previously said national police were guarding the closed-off boulevard.
An internal police investigation into the security measures has been launched, and President Francois Hollande is holding a special security meeting Friday.
Five people were handed preliminary terrorism charges late Thursday night in the case. The Paris prosecutor says Bouhlel had accomplices and appears to have been plotting his attack for months, citing text messages, more than 1,000 phone calls and video of the attack scene on the phone of one of the suspects.
Nice City Hall has put up the names of all 84 people killed in the attack on two black banners. The victims were of several nationalities, as were the more than 300 people wounded in the attack.
Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.