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Suspect 'prayed' before knifing French soldier

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Suspect 'prayed' before knifing French soldier
23-year-old French soldier Cédric Cordier, who was stabbed in the neck while on anti-terrorist patrol at La Défense in Paris on Saturday May 25th. Photo: LCI Screengrab/François Guillot/AFP
10:49 CEST+02:00
Fears increased on Monday that the stabbing of a French soldier in Paris was an attempted copycat attack, inspired by the murder of a British soldier in London. The latest reports claim the suspect was seen 'praying' before the knife attack.

Reports in the French media on Monday raised the likelihood that the stabbing of a uniformed French soldier in Paris on Saturday could have been inspired by last week’s hacking to death of a British soldier in London.

Sources for French daily Le Parisien have claimed that the suspect, who has still not been found since fleeing the scene of the attack at at the shopping and transport hub La Défense, was seen ‘praying’ in the train station, before stabbing the soldier in the neck.

The suspected knife wielder was captured on CCTV cameras before, during and after the attack.

So far, he is described as being a bearded, athletically-built man, 1.90 metres tall, who wore a black pullover, and not a djellaba (a traditional north-African robe) as was first reported in the press.

The 23-year-old soldier Cédric Cordier was stabbed in the neck from behind, by a man wielding what initial reports identified as a box-cutter, but was later confirmed to be a knife.

Cordier's partner, Amélie, told RTL radio on Sunday that the stab wound had come terrifyingly close to being lethal.

“It was just two centimetres away from his carotid artery,” she said.

Cordier was release from hospital on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, French president François Hollande told reporters accompanying him on a trip to Ethiopia: "We still do not know the exact circumstances of the attack or the identity of the attacker, but we are looking at all options."

"I do not think that at this stage a link can be made" to the attack in London on Wednesday, he said.

French interior minister Manuel Valls, however, said there were similarities, and that the knife attack, which left Cordier ‘traumatized’ but stable, ‘could have been a terrorist act.’

“Basically, there are components which could lead you to think we’re dealing with an act of terrorism,” Valls told France 5 TV on Sunday.

On Saturday Valls also said that the "sudden violence of the attack" in Paris was one of a few elements that suggested "there was a form of comparison to be made with what happened in London.

"Noting that the inquiry had “just begun,” the minister did, however, caution against “any lumping together or comparison" with the attack in Woolwich which saw  Lee Rigby hacked to death on a London street by two men wielding knives and a cleaver who then launched into a tirade against British military involvement in Muslim countries.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited the wounded man in hospital and later told reporters he had been targeted because he was a soldier.

Le Drian, who said the soldier was in a stable condition, vowed to continue France's "implacable" fight against terrorism.

The soldier, who was armed and in uniform, was patrolling as part of France's Vigipirate anti-terrorist alert system that sees troops deployed at high-profile tourist, business and transport sites across the capital.

The Vigipirate scheme was raised to "reinforced red" in January after jihadist rebels in Mali threatened to "strike at the heart of France."

On "red alert" before Saturday's attack at La Défense, authorities announced on Monday that they would not be raising Vigipirate to the highest level which is "crimson".

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