Stolen van drives into crowded bus stop in France, 1 killed

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The State Department has issued a warning from the United States Consulate General in Marseille, France, regarding a vehicle attack on pedestrians at two bus stops in Marseille that took place Monday morning.

Local authorities are advising the public to avoid the Marseille Old Port area, and United States citizens in the area are being encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

A woman has died and another person was injured after a man deliberately drove a stolen van into two bus stops during morning rush hour in Marseille, southern France. This incident is not being considered a terrorist attack.

A man was injured in the first crash, which took place at around 8 a.m., and a 42-year-old woman was killed in the second, about an hour later.

The suspect, a 35-year-old man, fled both scenes and was later arrested in the city’s Old Port area. He had reportedly stolen the van before deliberately driving it into a packed bus shelter in the Croix-Rouge area of Marseille just after 8 a.m.

The driver then sped off, as ambulances were called to attend to people who had been injured in the attack.

An hour later, at 9 a.m., the same vehicle was seen crashing into a stop in an area of the city known as Valentine, five miles away from the first crash.

The man was then arrested in Old Port, thanks to an alert citizen who took note of the registration number of the car and called authorities. Marseille’s Old Port was then cordoned off by police and members of the public told to stay away.

The suspect, a French national, already has convictions for theft, drug trafficking and carrying illegal weapons, police said.

France’s counter-terrorism prosecutor said it had not taken up the case at this stage.

“The arrest was made in a surprisingly calm fashion, no gunshots were exchanged,” David Reverdy of the Alliance Police Union in Marseille, told BFM TV.

“The distance traveled by the driver suggests a certain determination,” Reverdy said, adding, “But we can ask ourselves: why these places? If one wanted to cause carnage, other places in Marseille, at another time of day, would have been more logical.”

The crash comes just days after back-to-back van attacks in Barcelona and the Spanish resort town of Cambrils killed 14 people.

France has been under a state of emergency since Islamist militants killed 130 people in and around Paris in November 2015.

Another 86 people were killed in an attack in Nice in July of last year, when a Tunisian man drove a truck along a seafront boulevard, mowing down people who were celebrating Bastille Day.

At first, the event today in France was feared to be a terror attack because of the nature in which it was carried out.  Last week, a man drove a van into a crowded street in Spain, killing 14 people and injuring more than 100.  The driver of the van remains on the run, and authorities believe he may have left Spain and is now in France.

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