PARIS (AP) — A man who fatally stabbed two women outside Marseille’s main train station had been detained for shoplifting and released the day before the attack, and used seven fake identities in previous encounters with police, officials said Monday.
French authorities are studying the suspect’s cellphone and working to determine his true identity and whether he had direct links to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s stabbing. The assailant was killed by soldiers immediately after the attack, the latest of several targeting France.
The suspect was identified by his fingerprints, which matched those taken during seven previous incidents registered by police since 2005, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.
The attacker didn’t have any past convictions in France, Molins said. The man’s most recent arrest occurred in the Lyon area Friday — just two days before the train station stabbing.
The man was held overnight for shoplifting, then released Saturday and the charges dropped, Molins said. He added that local authorities had no reason to hold him further based on the ID he gave them, a Tunisian passport.
He told Lyon authorities that he did odd jobs, used hard drugs and was divorced, according to Molins. It’s not clear if the attacker had any connection to the victims — two cousins who had met for a birthday celebration.
Some witnesses reported hearing the assailant shout “Allahu akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great” — and Molins said that’s one of the reasons prosecutors opened a terrorism investigation. But no firm evidence has surfaced linking the man to Islamic extremism.
Molins said video surveillance of the site showed the man sitting for a few minutes on a bench outside the station, before jumping up and stabbing one woman several times. He then ran away and returned to attack the second woman.
A woman passer-by tried to intervene, Molins said. The man then tried to attack soldiers patrolling the site, but they…