Dozens of tearful mourners embraced at the funeral of two cousins who were both stabbed to death by a Tunisian illegal immigrant.
Suspected Islamist Ahmed Hanachi murdered cousins Mauranne and Laura, both 20, outside Marseille’s main train station before being shot dead by soldiers.
Today the women’s loved ones laid the pair to rest at the church of Eguilles some 40km north of the city where they were murdered by the deranged knifeman.
People attend the funerals of Mauranne and Laura – two 20-year-old cousins stabbed on Sunday outside Saint-Charles train station in the coastal city of Marseille
Two women embrace as emotions run high at the funerals being held at the Church of Eguilles
Tragic: The two victims of the Marseille knife attack were identified by their first names as cousins and best friends Mauranne (left) and Laura (right), both 20
The assailant was shot dead by soldiers who were patrolling the station as part of France’s state of emergency
A man and a woman embrace at the top of the steps (top right) as mourners gather outside the church which is being guarded by police (right and top left)
Dozens of people lined the streets and people were seen hugging and crying at the service.
French police investigating the attack have detained four suspected terrorists.
Suspected Islamist Ahmed Hanachi murdered cousins Mauranne and Laura, both 20, outside the city’s main train station before being shot dead by soldiers.
On Monday it emerged that he had been arrested seven times since 2005 – giving officers a fake identity on each occasion.
The four people arrested are being held on suspicion of being associated with a terror group.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Hanachi had Italian residency and a valid Tunisian passport.
The attacker was killed by soldiers after the stabbings which were claimed by the Islamic State group.
Hanachi had been detained for shoplifting and released the day before the attack – giving police a fake name as he had done on numerous encounters with officers in the past.
French authorities are studying the suspect’s cellphone and working to determine whether he had direct links to ISIS, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s stabbing.
Tributes were paid to the young victims earlier this week, with Marseille University, where Mauranne studied, describing her as a ‘brilliant student’.
Out of custody: The attacker (pictured lying dead after he was gunned down outside Saint Charles station, Marseille), was an illegal immigrant named as Ahmed Hanachi who had been arrested last week
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 on Friday – just two days before the train station stabbing.
The man was held overnight for shoplifting, then released on 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.
The attacker – who was a North African of either Algerian or Tunisian origin – was arrested in Lyon for shoplifting, but was released two days before the Marseille stabbings on Sunday
The assailant was gunned down by soldiers who were on patrol inside Saint Charles train station at the time as part of France’s ongoing state of emergency
A body lies under a white sheet outside Marseille’s main train station after a man with a butcher’s knife attacked two women at the station
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, apparently not satisfied with the explanation, on Monday ordered a probe of the circumstances that led police to free the man, who attacked and killed the young women a day later. The report is due by end of the week, a ministry statement said.
While being held in Lyon, the man told police that he did odd jobs, used hard drugs and was divorced, according to Molins, the prosecutor.
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.
The man shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he murdered the 17-year-old student and 21-year-old nurse outside St-Charles station
Two women were stabbed to death and their assailant shot dead by soldiers in Marseille
French police search the body of the assailant shortly after he was gunned down outside the busy station
A woman passer-by tried to intervene, Molins said. The man then tried to attack soldiers patrolling the site, but they shot him dead with two bullets.
The suspect was found with two knives and a telephone, but no identity papers, according to Molins.
The man’s multiple pseudonyms made it difficult to even find a house to search for more clues, said Yves Lefebvre of the Unite SGP Police union.
‘While it could shock the public, unfortunately it doesn’t shock us, the police’ that the suspect was released the day before carrying out a deadly attack, he said. He said shoplifting usually results in a quick police report and a court summons, and the suspect is released.
‘Nothing allowed us to suspect there was a threat of radicalization during the (Lyon) arrest,’ Lefebvre told The Associated Press.
He said that while the man didn’t provide a residency permit, jails and migrant retention centers are often overflowing, so authorities do not routinely lock up illegal immigrants suspected of minor crimes.
However, the interior minister demanded a report to ‘shed full light’ on the man, procedures followed and the decision not to expel him, the ministry statement said.
The ISIS-linked Aamaq news agency said that the assailant was acting in response to the extremist group’s calls to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting militants in Syria and Iraq.
France has been part of the anti-ISIS coalition since 2014. The Aamaq statement didn’t provide details, and it’s unclear if the claim is merely opportunistic.
TIMELINE OF TERROR: ATTACKS IN FRANCE SINCE 2012
- March, 2012 – Mohamed Merah, an al Qaeda-inspired gunman, kills seven people in three separate shootings in Toulouse. Victims included three soldiers of North African origin, a rabbi and his two young children.
- December, 2014 – A man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest) injures 13 by ramming a vehicle into a crowd in the eastern city of Dijon. Prime Minister Manuel Valls says France has ‘never before faced such a high threat linked to terrorism’.
- January, 2015 – Two brothers kill 12 people inside the Paris offices of magazine Charlie Hebdo in a supposed retaliation for the publication’s cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. More are killed subsequently in attacks on a kosher market in eastern Paris and on police. There are 17 victims in all, including two police officers. The attackers are killed.
- June, 2015 – Frenchman Yassin Salhi, 35, kills and beheads his boss and displays the severed head, surrounded by two Islamic flags, on the fence of a gas plant in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in southeastern France. He tries to blow up the factory, but is arrested. He commits suicide in jail in December.
- November 2015 – ISIS militants kill 130 people in France’s worst atrocity since World War II. A series of suicide bomb and shooting attacks are launched on crowded sites in central Paris, as well as the northern suburb of Saint-Denis. ISIS claim responsibility. It leads to the declaration of a state of emergency in France. Police powers are expanded.
- January, 2016 – A man wielding a meat cleaver and carrying an ISIS emblem is shot dead as he tries to attack a police station in Paris. Convicted of theft in 2013, the man identified himself at the time as Moroccan-born Sallah Ali.
- June, 2016 – Two French police officers are murdered in their home in front of their 3-year-old son. ISIS claims responsibility for the slaying, carried out by a jihadist with a prior terrorist conviction. He is killed at the scene.
- July, 2016 – Amid Bastille Day celebrations in the Riviera city of Nice, a large truck is driven into a festive crowd. Some 86 people from a wide variety of countries are killed. The driver is shot dead. ISIS again claim responsibility for the attack. The state of emergency in France is extended.
- July, 2016 – Less than two weeks later, attackers slit the throat of a priest in a hostage-taking at his church in the Normandy town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
- February, 2017 – A man armed with a machete is shot five times outside the Louvre museum after attempting to storm the historic art gallery.
- March, 2017 – Convicted criminal with links to radical Islam shouted ‘I am here to die for Allah, there will be deaths’ seconds before he was shot dead during an attack at Orly airport.
- June, 2017 – An Algerian man, 40, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS attacks a policeman with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral.
- August, 2017 – A mentally ill 18-year-old is arrested at the Eiffel Tower after brandishing a knife and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greatest). He later told investigators he wanted to kill a soldier.
- September 2017 – French soldiers shot and a killed a man after he stabbed to death two women at Marseille’s main train station.
The small town of Eguilles in southern France held a memorial gathering Monday evening for the victims, a medical student from Eguilles, identified as 20-year-old Mauranne, and her cousin, Laura. Villagers gathered to sign a book of condolences. Officials have withheld the young women’s last names.
Yvon Berland, the president of Marseille University where Mauranne studied, said she was a ‘brilliant student’, who would have enjoyed a ‘superb professional future’.
Laura was in the second year of a course to qualify as a nurse in Lyon, and was also a scout leader, having joined the scout movement as a volunteer three years ago.
Marseille’s Saint Charles station reopened Monday under heavy security. Last month, four American college students were attacked with acid at the same station by a woman authorities said was suffering from mental illness.