Two young students killed in Marseille knife attack were cousins

Two young women who were knifed to death by a suspected jihadist outside Marseille train station on Sunday were two cousins aged 20, French prosecutors have confirmed.

Two young students killed in Marseille knife attack were cousins
Photo: AFP

The pair were attacked by a man, aged around 30, who reportedly shouted Allahu Akbar, before he fatally stabbed the women outside the Saint-Charles train station on Sunday afternoon.

Authorities said video surveillance footage showed the assailant attacked the first victim, then fled — only to return and kill the other woman. One of the victims reportedly had her throat slit.

It emerged on Monday that the two victims were not just known to each other, but were cousins, reports in France said. Both were students aged 20. France's counter-terrorist prosecutor François Molins later confirmed the victims were related at a press conference in Marseille.

On has been named as Laura by L'Express news site. She was in her second year of a nursing degree at a university in Lyon and had travelled to Marseille for the weekend to celebrate her birthday.

She came from the Lyon suburb of Rillieux-la-Pape, according to RTL radio, which described her as being “very involved in charitable work”.

The town's Mayor Alexendre Vincendet tweeted a message of support for the victim's family and friends. Flags hanging outside the Town Hall would be folded as a mark of respect and a minute's silence would be held on Monday, the mayor said.

Her cousin, named Mauranne, who was also killed was also a student. She was undertaking a medicine degree at university in Marseille and was originally from the village of Eiguilles near Aix-en-Provence.

The village's mayor Robert Dagorne said residents were traumatised by what had happened and called for a vigil outside the Town Hall on Monday evening t remember the victim.

While terror group Isis have claimed responsibility for the double stabbing French authorities say there is no confirmation the killer had any link to the Middle East group and the French interior ministry said they could not yet confirm the attack was motivated by terrorism.

While France has been hit by a string of terror attacks in recent years there have also been deadly incidents which investigators concluded were motivated more by the attacker's psychological disorders than terrorism, notably when a man rammed his car into a bus stop in Marseille last August.

It has emerged that Sunday's black-clad attacker, who was shot dead by soldiers on patrol at the station, was known to police after being arrested for a string of minor offences. Reports say he had been arrested in Lyon on Friday for theft but had been released.

Prosecutor Molins confirmed the attacker had been arrested seven times since 2005 and had given seven different identities.

The prosecutor said that when he was arrested in Lyon the attacker had handed over a Tunisian passport belonging to an Ahmed H. But investigators were still trying to confirm whether this is indeed the real identity of the knifeman.

The attacker was not known to French intelligence services and was not on their terror watch list. According to Prosecutor Molins the attacker was unemployed, divorced and a history of taking hard drugs.


IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste

Torrential rain hit the city of Marseille in the south of France on Sunday and Monday, just days after local waste collectors ended a week-long strike, leading to fears of "catastrophic" waste making its way to the ocean.

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste
A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille on October 5th. Photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

Marseille is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, which Météo France placed on red alert for heavy rain and flooding on Monday. Schools in the area shut and people were warned not to leave their homes as two months’ worth of rain fell in a single day in the Mediterranean city, after heavy rains had already caused flooding on Sunday night.

The situation was compounded by the fact that uncollected garbage was blocking storm drains in certain parts of the city – drains which would normally be cleared ahead of heavy rain – and making it more difficult for emergency services to intervene.

The city’s waste collectors had begun clearing the streets on Saturday after an agreement between unions and local authorities put an end to an eight-day strike over an increase to working hours.

But rain over the weekend made the monumental job even more difficult, and the result was that “rivers of rubbish” flowed through the city’s streets on Monday.

“Rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe,” biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told AFP. “We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches.”

“It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday,” she added. “We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind.”

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille. Photo: Christophe SIMON / AFP.

The video below tweeted by BFMTV journalist Cédric Faiche shows the state of a beach in Marseille early on Tuesday morning. “It’s been cleaned several times but cans and different types of plastic continue to arrive…” Faiche wrote.

However, Faiche told BFM there are similar scenes every time there is heavy rain in Marseille, even if the strike has made the situation even worse.

Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin shared a video of the “sad scene” captured in Marseille on Sunday night. “Discussions between trade unions and the city must not make us forget what really matters: we are all responsible for our seas and our oceans!” she said.

“It’s unacceptable,” Christine Juste, deputy mayor in charge of the environment in Marseille told BFM on Tuesday, criticising the “lack of reactivity” in collecting leftover rubbish following the end of the strike on Friday.

“Why wait so long? In the 6th arrondissement, there has been no collection since the announcement that the strike was over,” she said.

IN PICTURES: See how the deluge has left parts of France’s Mediterranean coast submerged

The Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis intercommunal structure, rather than city hall, is in charge of rubbish collection in Marseille.

On Monday morning, the Metropolis dispatched 650 workers to clear away as much waste as possible ahead of the heaviest rainfall which was forecast for the afternoon.

On Monday evening, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan told franceinfo that 3,000 tonnes of garbage were still yet to be collected in the city. “I asked the Prime Minister this evening to class the zone as a natural disaster,” he added.