PARIS — A man killed two women with a knife at the main Marseille train station on Sunday afternoon, an incident French authorities are investigating as a terrorist attack.
French police on patrol at the station shot the attacker dead at the scene, according to a Twitter statement from the Marseille branch of France’s national police. The attacker’s identity has not yet been disclosed.
“Profoundly outraged by this barbaric act, in pain with the families and relatives of the Marseille victims,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. Gérard Collomb, France’s Interior Minister, was dispatched to Marseille late Sunday afternoon, where he met with local authorities about the case.
The St. Charles train station was immediately evacuated, and the SNCF, France’s national railway system, suspended service to and from France’s second largest city.
In mid-September, the same train station was the site of another attack, in which a woman threw acid onto a group of four visiting American students, all in their 20s. Marseille police did not classify that earlier incident as terrorism, reporting instead that the assailant had “a psychiatric history.”
Sunday’s attack came exactly one month before France’s official “state of emergency,” an extra-judicial security regime, is slated to expire. The special provisions of the state of emergency, which have been in place since the day after the November 2015 Paris attacks, give French officials an increased authority to carry out home searches and house arrests without judicial oversight.
Terrorism — and, in general, national security — remain among the most divisive issues in France, where 239 have been killed since 2015. In one of the most controversial decisions of his young tenure, Macron announced his plans to enshrine some of the state of emergency’s anti-terror provisions in regular French law. Critics have insisting that doing so would violate civil liberties, especially for French Muslims.
On Sunday, however, Macron praised the existing infrastructure. “I salute the soldiers of Sentinelle and the police who reacted with composure and efficiency,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
Operation Sentinelle, which authorities credited with subduing and killing the suspect in Sunday’s attack, is among the most visible elements of France’s state of emergency. A squadron of some 10,000 soldiers deployed to guard tourist sites and other sensitive locations throughout the country, Sentinelle has been at the center of many recent small-scale attacks.