A man wielding a skewer and knife on Saturday went on the rampage in the French city of Lyon, leaving a 19-year-old man dead and eight others injured, including three critically.
A police source said the alleged perpetrator was an Afghan asylum seeker, unknown previously to the police and intelligence services.
An eyewitness in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, described the attack as frenzied.
“There was a man at the 57 [bus stop] who started striking out with a knife in all directions,” said a young girl, whose top was stained with blood.
“He managed to hit, to cut open one person’s stomach,” she said.
“He stabbed a guy in the head, he cut the ear of a lady and the lady was dying at the bus stop and no one came to help,” she added.
She eventually managed to get the woman on a bus, which closed its doors and drove away from the scene.
Paramedics treated 20 people at the scene for shock.
Lyon Mayor Gerard Collomb, a former French minister of the interior, visited the site of the attack, but in comments to journalists would not be drawn on what had provoked it.
The man who carried out the attack had acted suddenly, he said.
Villeurbanne Mayor Jean-Paul Bret paid tribute to people at the scene and security staff at the nearby metro station who overpowered the suspect as he tried to make his escape.
Police arrested the suspected attacker and were holding him in custody on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, the Lyon prosecutors’ office told reporters.
The reasons for the attack were not clear.
The national anti-terrorism prosecutors’ office had been informed, but had not taken charge of the case at this stage.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, said on Twitter that “the naivety and laxity of our migration policy seriously threatens the safety of the French people.”
A group representing the region’s mosques also issued a statement roundly condemning the killing and the “deadly madness that inhabits those who try to sow hatred and violence.”
In May last year, a parcel bomb in front of a baker’s shop in central Lyon slightly injured 14 people.
The perpetrator, a young radicalized Algerian, who was arrested three days later, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to his confession.
Lyon, France’s third city, had until then remained untouched by the wave of extremist attacks that have killed 251 people in France since 2015.
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