The incident took place at the Saint-Charles train station in Marseille on Sunday, when a man attacked passers-by with a knife.
One person was killed by the assailant at the scene, while another succumbed a short while after, according to police chief Olivier de Mazières.
The attacker, who was reportedly shouting “Allahu Akbar,” was shot dead by an army patrol. At least two shots were fired, local media reported, citing witnesses.
The attacker is described as a man in his late twenties, who was not carrying any ID.
The investigation team is currently running his fingerprints through their databases, French media reported.
Both of the attacker’s victims were women, the French interior ministry said.
One of the victims had her throat slit, while the other was stabbed in her stomach, French media report, citing police sources.
The victims were 17 and 20-years-old, according to media reports.
The incident is being treated as a “terrorist act” and anti-terror prosecutors have launched an investigation, BFM TV reports, citing the prosecutor’s office.
The authorities have praised the soldiers who killed the assailant for their swift actions which prevented more casualties.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron has denounced the “barbarous” attack, sending his condolences to the relatives of the two victims.
“Deeply upset by this barbarous act, I share the pain of the families and relatives of the victims of Marseille,” Macron tweeted. “I salute the soldiers of Sentinel and the police officers who reacted with composure and efficiency.”
“We have generally avoided these sort of attacks in Marseille,”regional president Renaud Muselier told BFM TV at the site of the attack. “I think the security services responded extremely quickly. It’s difficult to do more because when you see the distance between the two bodies and the attacker it’s only 10 meters, so they intervened quickly.”
“If the military had not been there, we would have had a lot more deaths,” lawmaker for the Marseille region Samia Ghali told France Bleu Province radio.
The army patrol which shot the knife-wielding attacker is a part of Operation Sentinel, aimed to bolster country’s security. The operation was launched amid a national state of emergency, which was declared following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The events were the deadliest terrorist acts in country’s history, and left over 130 people dead.
There has been lately a surge in the so-called “lone-wolf” attacks, similar to the today’s incident in Marseille. The Sentinel patrols themselves have also been targeted by terrorists, as at least seven attacks on patrolling soldiers have taken place.
Despite the state of emergency, which has been renewed six times so far, the country still experiences frequent terrorism-related incidents. The latest extension was in July and is expected to last until November 1.