French anti-terrorism investigators were last night hunting for an attacker who stabbed a soldier in Paris, as authorities continued to search for links with the brutal killing of British serviceman Lee Rigby.
Private First Class Cedric Cordier, 23, was in uniform when he was stabbed in the throat yesterday in the busy La Défense shopping area near the centre of Paris.
He remains in hospital but his injuries are not life-threatening, the interior ministry said. His attacker is still on the run.
The stabbing came days after Rigby was hacked to death in Woolwich in south-east London in broad daylight by two suspected terrorists.
Scotland Yard again refused to comment yesterday on whether it was looking into any links between the incident in France and the murder of Rigby.
However, French interior minister Manuel Valls has said there could be comparisons between the two attacks.
He told France 2 television: “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.”
Cordier was on a group patrol as part of a national protection programme when he was attacked from behind.
France’s defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who visited the injured solider in hospital, confirmed he had been targeted because he was a soldier.
Rigby was killed in a brutal attack outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich.
The gruesome scene was recorded on witnesses’ mobile phones and a video emerged in which one of the two suspects — his hands bloodied — boasted of their exploits and warned of more violence as the soldier lay on the ground.
Speaking after the attack while on an official visit to Ethiopia, French president François Hollande said that while “all hypotheses” will be investigated, there did not appear to be a link with the murder in London.
French security forces have been on heightened alert since the country launched a military intervention in Mali in January to regain territory seized by Islamic radicals.
Last year, three French paratroopers were killed by a man police described as a French-born Islamic extremist who then went on to strike a Jewish school in the south of France, killing four more people.
New UK group to battle radical Muslim preachers
The British government, facing criticism over the killing of a soldier by suspected Islamists in a London street, is to set up a group to combat radical Muslim preachers and others whose words could encourage violence.
Prime minister David Cameron’s office said yesterday the group aimed to fight radicalism in schools and mosques, tighten checks on inflammatory internet material, and disrupt the “poisonous narrative” of hardline clerics.
“[The group] will assess the range of strategies to disrupt individuals who may be influential in fostering extremism,” said a goverment statement. “It needs to confront those religious leaders who promote violence head on.”
The killing of soldier Lee Rigby, hacked to death near his London barracks last Wednesday, has fuelled public anger about radical Islam. It has also raised questions over whether more could have done more to prevent the attack and put pressure on Cameron to tackle suspected militants more forcefully.
Witnesses said the soldier’s killers shouted Islamist slogans during the attack. Bystanders filmed one of the suspects saying it was in revenge for Britain’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Michael Adebolajo, 28 and Michael Adebowale, 22, are under guard in hospital after being shot and arrested on suspicion of murder. Media reports said Adebolajo handed out extremist literature and made “rambling and intense” street lectures.
Home secretary Theresa May said thousands were at risk of being radicalised.
Opposition Labour lawmaker Hazel Blears said people vulnerable to radicals were spotted too late and government cuts had weakened the fight against them. She told the Observer newspaper the government had “abandoned the territory”.
Former prime minister Tony Blair tried to tighten rules against hate preachers after the London bombings in 2005 that killed 52 commuters. The measures stirred a long debate about how to balance free speech and civil rights with a strong counter-terrorism strategy.
Three men were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
* Almost two thirds of people in the Britain believe more stringent terrorism laws are needed and would support the death penalty for terrorists, a poll conducted since the murder of soldier Lee Rigby found.
The survey found 64% of voters believe tougher laws are needed to curb incitement to terrorism, while 63% would support the death penalty for convicted terrorists.
However, 61% of those polled also felt that activities by groups such as the English Defence League make terrorist attacks more likely. Just 14% felt the EDL did not increase the threat of terrorism.
The poll by Survation, for the Mail on Sunday, interviewed 1,121 people online on Friday.
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