French soldier in uniform stabbed in Paris

The soldier was on patrol when he was attacked, as David Chazan reports

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French authorities are investigating whether the stabbing of a soldier in a Paris suburb was a copycat attack in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, killed in London this week.

"They tried to kill the soldier because he was a soldier," said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The soldier was on patrol in the area of La Defense when he was stabbed in the neck by an unknown man who escaped.

His injuries are not life-threatening and he is in a stable condition.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande had said all possibilities were being explored but there was no evidence yet of any link to the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in the Woolwich area of London on Wednesday.

But Mr Le Drian said the soldier had been targeted, and said he was determined to lead "an implacable fight against terrorism".

The case has been assigned to a counter-terrorism prosecutor for investigation.

State of alert

The 23-year-old French soldier was patrolling in uniform with two colleagues in the suburban railway station at La Defense late on Saturday afternoon.

He was attacked from behind by a man wielding a knife or a box-cutter.

The assailant, whose identity is unknown, ran away into a crowded shopping area before the two other soldiers were able to react.

A senior police officer said the soldier had lost a considerable amount of blood but would survive, and is now being treated in a nearby military hospital.

France is on high alert following a threat from the North African wing of al Qaeda, related to the country's involvement in Mali.

The higher state of alert is one of the reasons why these soldiers are on patrol in central Paris, says the BBC's Christian Fraser, in the French capital.

Shortly after the murder of Drummer Rigby, a man was filmed nearby saying he had carried out the attack because British soldiers killed Muslims every day.

Two men have been arrested and remain in hospital after they were shot by police.

Both men were known to the security services, sources told the BBC.

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