The soldier was on patrol in the area of La Defense when he was stabbed in the neck by an unknown man who escaped
A French soldier has been stabbed in a Paris suburb and the authorities are investigating whether the incident 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 Jean-Yves Le Drian said the soldier had been targeted, and said he was determined to lead “an implacable fight against terrorism”.
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.
Shortly after the murder of Drummer Lee 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 British security services.
A French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed operation to free hostage Denis Allex who is also believed to have died, the defence minister said.
Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris that a second soldier was missing after the operation.
A battle erupted with al-Shabab militants after commandos swooped on the town of Bulo Marer overnight.
The raid came hours after French troops intervened in the west African state of Mali.
France was “engaged in a merciless fight against terrorism wherever it is found”, Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The French government knew well the intervention would have dangerous implications for the nine French hostages being held across northern Africa.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said “all the indications” were that hostage Denis Allex, kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009, had been killed by his captors during the operation.
But al-Shabab said Denis Allex, an agent of France’s DGSE intelligence service, was not in the area and was unharmed.
Earlier, the French defence ministry announced that he had been killed. It also said that two French soldiers had died in the fighting, along with 17 militants in the town in the lower Shebelle region.
In a statement, al-Shabab reported a “fierce firefight” that lasted 45 minutes.
A French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed operation to free hostage Denis Allex who is also believed to have died
Giving no details of its own casualties, the group said it had killed “several” French soldiers and had captured an injured soldier.
The injured soldier would be shown to the press, once security allowed, the group said.
Denis Allex, according to al-Shabaab, was “safe and far from the location of the battle”. An announcement about his fate would be made within two days, the group said, promising “bitter consequences” for the French government.
Residents said at least four civilians including a pregnant woman were killed and others wounded in cross-fire.
They reported seeing the body of a foreign soldier lying on the ground, with helicopters hovering over him.
One unnamed resident said: “Last night while I was sleeping I heard small-arms fire.
“After 10 minutes of shooting, helicopters joined the fight and started firing at targets on the ground, and people on the ground were firing back.
“Nobody could get out of their houses. The helicopters were hovering over the town.”
Of the other French hostages, at least six are being held by the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, AFP news agency reports.
Denis Allex appeared in a video in June 2010, appealing to France to drop its support for the Somali government.
He last appeared in another video in October, looking gaunt and calling on French President Francois Hollande to work for his release.
Somalia has not had an effective central government for more than two decades.
France has a large military base in neighboring Djibouti, including army, marine and air force units.
On Friday, President Francois Hollande announced that French forces were supporting an offensive by the Malian government to regain territory captured by Islamist militants in the north.
It was confirmed that French jets had made air strikes as Islamist rebels were forced out of the town of Konna.
Jean-Yves Le Drian said a French helicopter pilot was killed in the fighting.
Francois Hollande said Islamists had been trying to turn Mali into a “terrorist” state and the French intervention complied with international law and had been agreed with Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore.