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A man armed with a knife fatally stabbed two women at the main train station in the southern French city of Marseille on Sunday afternoon before soldiers on patrol shot him dead.

One of the victims was stabbed while the other had her throat slit by the man who is believed to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) at the start of the attack, a source close to the investigation told Agence France-Presse.

“From the CCTV images we see the suspect arrived at Saint-Charles station at 13.32 and go out on to the square outside at 13.38, where he sat on a bench,” Molins told a news conference.

Seven minutes later “he got up sudden[ly] and went towards the first victim, whom he stabbed several times. He fled the scene but made a circular route back to the second victim, whom he attacked with several violent stabs of the knife.”

The man then ran towards soldiers patrolling as part of Operation Sentinelle, who shot him twice. The knife, with a blade measuring 20cm, was found near the body of the attacker, who was also carrying a small stainless steel kitchen knife and a mobile phone.

Molins said the man had shouted “Allahu Akhbar” before each attack. The two victims, named as Mauranne, 20, a medical student from Marseille, and Laura, 21, a trainee nurse from Lyon, were cousins.

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