A female police worker died after being stabbed twice in the throat at a police station in the Paris suburb of Rambouillet in what Emmanuel Macron described as an act of terrorism.
The attacker, a 36-year-old French resident of Tunisian origin, entered the lobby of the police station before stabbing the woman, an administrative worker, twice in the throat. He was shot and killed by police at the scene.
The man shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is Greatest) during yesterday’s attack, a source close to the inquiry said.
“In our fight against Islamist terrorism, we will never give in,” Mr Macron, the French president, said, naming the murdered woman as Stephanie.
Jean-Francois Ricard, France’s anti-terror prosecutor, said he was taking the lead in the investigation. The assailant was not previously known to security agencies, a security source said.
“They have tried to destabilise this country by coming here to attack the police force in this quiet town in the rural south of Ile-de-France,” said Valerie Pecresse, the president of the region.
She added: “Police are symbols of the republic. They are France.”
Mr Ricard told reporters that the anti-terror office had taken over the investigation because the attacker had staked out the station, because of statements made during the incident and because the perpetrator targeted a police official.
Three people have been detained following the attack, it was reported last night.
Jean Castex, the French prime minister, and Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, travelled to the scene of the attack yesterday afternoon.
“France has lost one of its everyday heroines in a barbaric gesture of infinite cowardice,” Mr Castex said.
Rambouillet, a middle-class suburb populated by workers who commute to nearby Paris, is less than 50 miles south of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where the beheading of a history teacher last October left France reeling and sparked a nationwide debate on security and Islam in the country.
Samuel Paty was beheaded in the street by an Islamist extremist after suggesting Muslims could leave his classroom when he showed cartoons of the prophet Mohammed during a debate on free speech and blasphemy.
The cartoons had previously been published in the Charlie Hebdo magazine, whose offices were attacked in 2015. Since then, France has suffered a string of terror attacks by Islamist militants, with more than 250 people killed.
Mr Macron’s government is toughening its security policies amid voter concerns about crime and complaints from police that they face increasing danger.
The shift comes as France prepares for regional elections in June in which security is a big issue, and for a presidential election next year in which Mr Macron’s main challenger, if he seeks a second term, could be far-Right leader Marine Le Pen.