A knife-wielding man attacked residents of a French town as they ventured to shop in the middle of a coronavirus lock, killing two and injuring eight others, authorities said.
Police then arrested the nearby suspect, said French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, thanking the merchants for their help.
Castaner said authorities are seeking to classify the attack in the town of Romans-sur-Isère as an act of terrorism.
While more investigation is needed, “it appears that all the risks have been neutralized” due to swift police intervention, Castaner told reporters at the scene south of the city of Lyon.
Two people were killed and eight injured, he said.
French media reported that three of them were in critical condition.
The French counter-terrorism prosecution said the attack took place at 11 a.m. on a shopping street.
Prosecutors have not identified the suspect.
They said that he did not have identity papers but claimed to be Sudanese and to have been born in 1987.
The prosecutor’s office has not confirmed reports that the man shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is great) in the attack.
The office said it was assessing whether the attack was motivated by terrorism, but had not launched any formal procedure to treat it as such.
About 100 police and 45 firefighters were involved in the operation and securing the area, said Castaner.
Like the rest of France, the residents of the city are locked in linked to the coronavirus.
The victims were shopping for food over the weekend on a street where there are bakeries and grocery stores, the office said.
The distance of two meters is encouraged, as in the rest of the country.
The media reported that the knife first attacked a Romanian resident who had just left home for his daily walk – cutting his throat in front of his girlfriend and son.
After that, they reported, the perpetrator entered a tobacco store, stabbed the tobacco and two customers, and then entered the local butcher’s shop.
He grabbed another knife and attacked a customer with the blunt tip before entering a supermarket.
Some buyers took refuge in a nearby bakery.
There have been a number of knife attacks in France in recent months.
In January, French police shot and wounded a man in Metz who brandished a knife and shouted “Allahu akbar”.
Two days earlier, another man had been shot dead by the police after having fatally stabbed one person and wounded two others in a Paris suburb.
It is not known if the suspect in the Saturday attack had psychological problems or ties to extremism.
Analysts say some extremist groups see the upset of the virus pandemic as an opportunity to gain more supporters.