A uniformed French soldier on anti-terrorist duties in Paris had his throat cut by a knife-wielding man tonight.
The savage attack follows the murder of a British soldier by two men using weapons including knives and a meat cleaver. One of the suspects said they were acting in the name of Islam.
Today there were fears that the Paris attack was a copy-cat crime and that a radical Muslim might once more be responsible.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he believes the attack was aimed to kill the soldier.
French president Francois Hollande said authorities were investigating any possible links with the attack on Drummer Rigby, who was killed in Woolwich, London, last week..
A Scotland Yard spokesman said he was unable to say whether police were connecting the incidents.
Police in the French capital described the attacker as a being ‘bearded, of North African origin and wearing a light coloured jihab’ under a jacket.
He pounced on the 23-year-old soldier outside a Virgin store in La Defence, the business district of the city which was packed with Saturday afternoon shoppers.
The weapon used was said to be a ‘cutter’ – the sharp edged tools used to slice open cardboard boxes.
The attack on a soldier in Paris was being treated as a ‘terrorist incident’, said a source at the Paris prosecutors office.
‘The anti-terrorist branch of the prosecutors office is dealing with the matter,’ the source added.
The soldier was knifed as a he patrolled around the suburban railway station for RER A service which links the French capital with the suburbs.
Pierre-Andre Peyvel, prefect of the Hauts-de-Seine district, said the soldier’s wounds were ‘serious enough’.
The soldier is currently at the nearby Percy hospital.
‘Thousands of people were in the area at the time of the attack,’ said Mr Peyvel. ‘It would have been quite easy to blend into the crowd and then disappear.’
‘The attack happened just after 6pm,’ said a police source. ‘The soldier was stabbed repeatedly, most notably in the throat.
‘The attacker ran away and the military are still looking for him, supported by the police. He is around 30 years old and of Arab appearance.
‘The wounded soldier was taken to a local railway station for treatment and then on to hospital.’
The source said that the soldier’s life was not in danger, but he was ‘badly hurt’.
France’s Interior Minister said the attack on the soldier could be compared ‘to what happened in London’ and that it was an attempted murder.
‘There are elements, the sudden violence of the attack, which might suggest that it might have some kind of comparison with what happened in London,” said Mr Manuel Valls.
He added : ‘But at this point, honestly, let’s be careful and do everything we can to arrest this individual who undoubtedly wanted to kill the soldier.’
According to the Nanterre prosecutor, Robert Gelli, the soldier was attacked from behind.
The soldier was surrounded by comrades who are not thought to have heard the attacker ‘say a word’, said Mr Gelli.
The attacker was described by Mr Gelli as being around 6ft 2ins tall.
The soldier is in France’s 4th Cavalry regiment, which has served in Afghanistan and has been on standby to fight in Mali.
Highlighting the seriousness of the attack on the soldier in Paris, President Francois Hollande said ‘we must look at all the theories’ for it happening.
‘We will not rule out any of them, we will look at all the elements’ said Mr Hollande, clearly referring to the possibility that the attacker may have been motivated by what happened in London.
Mr Hollande, who is on a visit to Ethiopia, placed himself firmly at the centre of the war against terrorism earlier this year by sending troops into Mali, where Al-Qaeda backed rebels have been trying to take control.
Mr Hollande has warned that European streets will be far less safe if violent Islamists are given free rein in former French colonies, like Mali.
This has led to a huge backlash from terrorist groups, with numerous warnings that the French military, who are also fighting in Afghanistan, are legitimate targets
News of the death of British soldier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks, in south London, has dominated French media since it happened on Wednesday.
France is considered a hotbed of radical Islamists, and the country’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance plan is currently in action.
Last year Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian Islamist, murdered three French soldiers near the south west city of Toulouse during a killing spree which also claimed the lives of four civilians.
Merah himself was later shot dead by police but made it clear that he had also committed the murders in the name of Islam.
It later emerged that Merah had links with terrorists groups all over the world, including ones in London.
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