Marseille knifeman 'used several aliases and stole'

Police investigators work outside the Saint Charles train station after French soldiers shot and killed a man who stabbed two women to death at the main train station in Marseille, France (October 1, 2017) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The attack took place outside the train station in the southern French port city

A suspected jihadist who stabbed two young women to death at Marseille's main train station had used several aliases and was a known petty criminal, French police and officials say.

A soldier shot and killed the attacker after the stabbings on Sunday. The victims were cousins from Lyon, both aged 20.

The knifeman had been detained in Lyon on Friday on suspicion of shoplifting, but then released for lack of evidence.

He struck just outside the station.

The man was said to be of North African appearance, but his identity remains unclear.

A police source quoted by Le Parisien newspaper said "he had the profile of a petty criminal, and in order to deport him it would be necessary to identify him, and that did not take place".

Witnesses said he shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) during the attack, by a bench outside the southern city's Saint Charles station.

So-called Islamic State (IS) said the attacker was one of its "soldiers".

Since January 2015 France has suffered a spate of jihadist attacks that have claimed more than 240 lives in total.

Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins, quoted by Reuters news agency, said the killer had seven different identities, none of which were on French anti-terrorist checklists.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Marseille station: Soldiers and police are on high alert under the state of emergency

One victim had her throat slit and the other was stabbed in the stomach.

President Emmanuel Macron said he was disgusted by the "barbarous act" and paid tribute to the soldiers and the police officers who responded.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters that the attacker had fled after the first murder but returned to kill again.

Anti-terror measures

Soldiers were already in the station as part of Operation Sentinelle, which sees combat troops patrol streets and protect key sites amid France's ongoing state of emergency.

IS claimed it was behind the attack via its Amaq news outlet. The group regularly claims responsibility for militant attacks it believes are inspired by its ideology.

France is involved in the US-led bombing campaign targeting IS in Iraq and Syria.

IS recently released a tape purportedly of leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi in which he urged supporters to step up attacks.

On Tuesday the French parliament will vote on new legislation which would make some state of emergency measures permanent.

The measures include:

  • Expanding the permitted zone for identity checks by police around stations, ports and airports
  • Requiring judicial approval before conducting a house search
  • Confining a suspect to house arrest without a prior instruction from a judge.

Human rights activists and some left-wing MPs warn that the new security law would reduce judicial oversight of the police.

Terror attacks in France

  • 7-9 Jan 2015 - Two Islamist gunmen storm the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 17 people. Another Islamist militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Four hostages are killed before police shoot the gunman dead. The other two gunmen are cornered and killed by police in a siege
  • 13 Nov 2015 - IS jihadists armed with bombs and assault rifles attack Paris, targeting the national stadium, cafes and Bataclan concert hall. The co-ordinated assault leaves 130 people dead, and more than 350 wounded
  • 13 Jun 2016 - A knife-wielding jihadist kills a police officer and his partner at their home in Magnanville, west of Paris. He declares allegiance to IS, and police later kill him
  • 14 Jul 2016 - A huge lorry mows down a crowd of people on the Nice beachfront during Bastille Day celebrations, killing 86. IS claims the attack - by a Tunisian-born driver, later shot dead by police
  • 26 Jul 2016 - Two attackers slits the throat of a priest at his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy. They are shot dead by police
  • 3 Feb 2017 - A machete-wielding Egyptian man shouting "Allahu akbar" attacks French soldiers at Paris's Louvre Museum - he is shot and wounded
  • 20 Apr 2017 - A known terror suspect opens fire at police on the Champs Elysees in Paris, killing one and wounding two. He is shot dead - and the assault is claimed by IS

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