by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
PARIS, France – A French soldier was stabbed while on patrol in La Defense, a business district west of Paris, on Saturday. Private First Class Cedric Cordier, 23, was approached from behind and stabbed in the neck with a small-bladed knife.
The suspect, described as being a bearded, athletically-built man of North African origin, was captured on security cameras before fleeing into a crowded shopping area and evading detention by police and the other patrolling-soldier.
Reports indicate that the suspect was seen “praying” before the knife attack, increasing fears that the attack was an act of terrorism.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters, “…there are components which could lead you to think we’re dealing with an act of terrorism.”
Last Wednesday, a British soldier was killed on a London street by two men allegedly acting out of revenge for violence against Muslims.
Valls told reporters that, “there are elements- the sudden violence of the attack- that could lead one to believe there might be a comparison with what happened in London…But at this point, honestly, let us be prudent.”
Similarly, French President Francois Hollande said there was no sign of a direct link with the London killing, but that authorities are “exploring all options.”
France is on high alert for attacks by Islamic militants following its military intervention in Mali in January, which prompted threats by the North African wing of al Qaeda. Jihadist rebels threatened to “strike the heart of France.” France’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist alert system was raised to “reinforced red” as a result.
The higher state of alert is one of the reasons why some 450 soldiers are on patrol at metro and train stations and other vulnerable locations in Paris. The Vigipirate scheme sees troops deployed at high-profile tourist, business and transport sites.
Cordier, who was in uniform patrolling the underground corridors where shops and crowded public transport lines converge under the Arch of La Defense, was released from a military hospital on Monday morning. The stab wound was reportedly just two centimetres away from his carotid artery. The 23-year-old soldier had lost a considerable amount of blood, but remained stable.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian vowed to continue France’s “implacable” fight against terrorism. Anti-terrorism investigators are handling the case.
Currently, a police hunt is under way for the suspect. He is described as being 1.90 metres tall, and though initially thought to be wearing a djellaba (a traditional North African robe), later reports indicated he was wearing a black pullover.
For more information, please see:
The Local – Suspect ‘prayed’ before knifing French soldier – 27 May 2013
Al Jazeera – French anti-terrorism police probe stabbing – 26 May 2013
BBC News – Knife attack on soldier in Paris treated as terrorism – 26 May 2013
France 24 – French soldier stabbed on patrol outside Paris – 25 May 2013