The Islamic State group on Sunday claimed responsibility for a knife attack that killed two women at the main train station in the French Mediterranean city of Marseille.
The monitoring group SITE quoted an Arabic language report on the group’s Amaq propaganda agency that cited a “security source” as saying: “The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Marseille… is from the soldiers of the Islamic State.”
The attacker, a man believed to be in his 30s, was shot dead by soldiers serving in a special 7,000-strong force known as Sentinelle set up to guard vulnerable areas in terror-hit France.
Witnesses said he shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) at the start of his rampage.
The latest deaths came with France still on high alert and under a state of emergency following a string of attacks in recent years by extremists linked to the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda.
The incident came only days after the Islamic State (IS) group released a recording of what it said was its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging his followers to strike their enemies in the West.
France has deployed troops and its air force to the Middle East and is a leading partner in the US-led international coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, where the jihadists are being driven back.
France has suffered several major terror attacks since 2015, including on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January followed by an assault on Paris bars and the Bataclan concert hall by gunmen in November of that year.
A killing spree in Nice in July 2016 left 86 people dead when an extremist drove a truck into crowds after a fireworks display on Bastille Day.
But there have also been numerous smaller attacks on police officers, soldiers or members of the public since then, sometimes carried out by people with severe psychological problems.
Since November 2015, the country has been in a state of emergency which gives the government and security forces greater powers to combat extremists and launch anti-terror raids.
New centrist President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to end the state of emergency with a new and controversial security law that will make many of the provisions of the emergency regime permanent.
Despite criticism from rights groups that the law reduces judicial oversight over the actions of the police, the lower house of parliament is set to vote on a first draft of the law on Tuesday.
In August, a man driving a van killed one person and seriously injured another after ploughing into a bus stop in Marseille, raising fears of another terror incident.
But doctors said later that the man had severe mental problems and discounted any terror link.
The soldiers who shot the knifeman on Sunday were part of the Operation Sentinelle force composed of 7,000 troops who guard high-risk areas such as transport hubs, tourist sites and religious buildings.