Two women were stabbed to death in Marseille, France on Sunday in what police sources described as a “likely terrorist act.”
Three police sources said the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he carried out his attack at Marseille train station before being shot dead by soldiers patrolling there.
France has been in a state of emergency following a slew of attacks by Islamist militants over the last two years, including attacks in Paris in November 2015 which killed 130 people. Other countries, including Britain, Germany and Belgium, have also suffered attacks using knives, guns, explosives and vehicles.
A witness told Reuters she saw a man take out a knife from his sleeve and then stab a young girl and then a second woman, shouting what could have been “Allahu Akbar.”
The soldiers who opened fire were from Operation Sentinelle, the military operation in which combat troops patrol streets and protect key sites – from synagogues to art galleries, nursery schools to mosques and Métro stations. The operation is the army’s first wide-scale peacetime military operation on mainland France.
Sentinelle was launched after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015. After the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people, the former Socialist president François Hollande increased the presence to 10,000 troops across the country, with about 6,500 in the Paris area.
“We have generally avoided these sort of attacks in Marseille,” regional president Renaud Muselier, who was speaking from the site of the attack, told BFM TV. “I think the security services responded extremely quickly. It’s difficult to do more because when you see the distance between the two bodies and the attacker it’s only 10 meters, so they intervened quickly.”
Security forces have increasingly been targeted by militants who have carried out several knife attacks on them, most notably in June 2016, when a Frenchman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State stabbed a police commander to death outside his home and killed his partner.
Since 2015, more than 230 people in France have been killed in terrorist attacks.