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Attack on French soldier ‘religiously motivated’

AFP
3 min

Police arrested a suspect Wednesday in the stabbing of a French soldier while on patrol in a business district near Paris last weekend. Prosecutors said the man, identified only as Alexandre D., was a convert to Islam who has confessed to the attack.

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The chief suspect in the stabbing of a French soldier on Saturday was a recent convert to Islam who was acting in accordance with his religious beliefs, French prosecutors said Wednesday.

The 21-year-old suspect, who was arrested early Wednesday in the Yvelines region west of Paris, has confessed to the attack, Paris prosecutor François Molins said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Molins said the suspect, who has been identified only as Alexandre D., was known to the police after having his identity checked in 2009 for praying in the street but had not been deemed dangerous.

According to Molins, video footage from Saturday showed him saying a Muslim prayer shortly before attacking a French soldier patrolling the business district of La Defense west of Paris.

He said the incident, which came days after a British soldier was attacked and killed in London, was being treated as a terrorist act.

"The nature of the incident, the fact it took place three days after London, and the prayer just before the act lead us to believe he acted on the basis of religious ideology and that his desire was to attack a representative of the state," Molins told a news conference, adding: “It seems clear the intent was to kill."

The head of investigative police in the French capital, Christian Flaesch, said there had been no previous indications of the suspect's involvement in violent extremism.

"Other than the praying in the street, there were no other elements that could have indicated he was dangerous," Flaesch said.

French soldier Cedric Cordiez was patrolling a shopping mall at La Defense with colleagues as part of France’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance plan when he was approached from behind around 6pm and stabbed in the neck with a fold-out knife.

Police said Alexandre D. was identified thanks to the surveillance footage and traces of his DNA found on items left at the scene in a plastic bag, including a knife and a bottle of orange juice.

Molins said the suspect had shown an "impressive determination" to carry out the attack, stabbing the soldier "several times".

Cordiez was discharged from hospital on Monday after being treated for his injuries.

In a televised interview with France’s i-Télé network, Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned of a growing number of young radicals in France similar to Mohamed Merah, the Islamist gunman who killed seven people, including three soldiers, in and around the southwestern city of Toulouse last year.

Valls said there are "several dozen, perhaps several hundred, potential Merahs in our country", adding that young French Muslims were being "radicalised" on the Internet and by extremist imams.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

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