But the interior minister cannot talk about
radical Islam as a motive.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement that the man was arrested Wednesday morning in the Yvelines region, just west of Paris. The soldier, Pvt. Cédric Cordiez, 25, was stabbed in the neck with a short-bladed knife in La Défense, a shopping mall and underground transportation hub west of Paris. He was treated at a military hospital and released on Monday.
Officials initially said that the stabbing seemed to echo an attack last week on a British soldier, who was hacked to death on a London street by two men the British authorities have identified as radicalized British Muslims. On Wednesday, the Paris public prosecutor, François Molins, said investigators believed that the suspect had indeed “acted in the name of his religious ideology,” given the character and timing of the attack, after the London killing, as well as a “prayer” he said shortly before it.
The man, whom Mr. Molins identified only as Alexandre D., confessed to the police officers who arrested him, Mr. Molins told reporters. He is believed to have targeted Private Cordiez, one of a small group of soldiers on an antiterror patrol, as a “representative of the state,” apparently intending to kill him, Mr. Molins said.
Mr. Valls urged caution and said, “I cannot talk about radical Islam.” Investigators want to know more about the suspect’s motivation, background and family environment, Mr. Valls said.
Mr. Molins said Alexandre D. had been known to the police since 2009, when he was submitted to an identity check for praying in the street. According to Le Monde, a French intelligence service had identified him as becoming more radical in February.
Illegally praying in the street. See links to video at the bottom of this post.
The police said he was identified by video footage from the crime scene and by traces of his DNA that were found on items left behind in a plastic bag, including a knife and a bottle. He has not yet been charged.
On the French television channel i-Télé, Mr. Valls warned of a growing number of young radicals in France similar to Mohammed Merah, a radical Islamist gunman who killed seven people in and around the southwestern city of Toulouse last year.
Mr. Valls said that there were “several dozen, perhaps several hundred, potential Merahs in our country,” and that young French Muslims were being “radicalized” on the Internet and by extremist imams.
Taking away the internet won’t take away the Koran or Mohammed’s example.
He told the newspaper Le Figaro that “no fewer than 120 French jihadists” were involved in the Syrian civil war and that about 60 percent of them were allied with fighters from Al Qaeda. About 30 have returned to France and are under surveillance, he added.
The attacker, described by the police as bearded and tall, approached Private Cordiez from behind while he was on patrol with two colleagues, stabbed him in the neck and disappeared into a crowd. French news agencies, quoting sources close to the investigation, reported that the suspect was seen on video praying a few minutes before the attack and that he was a recent convert to Islam already known to the police for his strong religious convictions.
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