PARIS — A French soldier was stabbed in the throat in a busy commercial district outside Paris on Saturday, and the government said it was trying to determine if there were any links to the brutal killing of a British soldier by suspected Islamic extremists.
French President Francois Hollande said the identity of the attacker, who escaped, was unknown and cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the assault on the uniformed soldier in the La Defense shopping area. The life of the 23-year-old soldier was not in danger, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
On Wednesday, British soldier Lee Rigby, 25, was viciously stabbed on a London street in broad daylight in a suspected terrorist attack that has raised fears of potential copycat strikes.
The French soldier was on a group patrol as part of a national protection program when he was attacked from behind, prosecutor Robert Gelli told Europe 1 radio. The assailant did not say a word, Gelli said.
"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," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told France 2 television. "But at this point, honestly, let us be prudent."
Rigby was attacked while walking outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in the Woolwich area of south London.
The gruesome scene was recorded on witnesses' cellphones, 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. Holding bloody knives and a meat cleaver, the suspects waited for police, who shot them in the legs, witnesses said.
In the video, one of the suspects declared, "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you ... We must fight them as they fight us."
Two Muslim hard-liners have identified that suspect as Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam and attended several London demonstrations organized by banned British radical group al-Muhajiroun.
French security forces have been on heightened alert since their country launched a military intervention in the African nation of Mali in January to regain territory seized by Islamic radicals. British Prime Minister David Cameron was himself in Paris meeting with Hollande when he first received word of the London attack.
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.
Associated Press Writer Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Omar Bakri Muhammed
Spiritual leader and founder of the group al-Muhajiroun. The group catapulted to notoriety after the Sept. 11 attacks by organizing an event to celebrate the airplane hijackers. Bakri, who now lives in Lebanon, had been one of the most aggressive voices of radical Islam in Britain. Members of the cell behind the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings also had links to the group. The government banned al-Muhajiroun after the July 7 attacks in which four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters, but it has re-formed under new names – such as the Saved Sect or al-Gurabaa, which have also been banned. He is barred from returning to Britain. Bakri says the man depicted in the startling video that emerged after the death of British serviceman Lee Rigby was named Michael Adebolajo, a Christian who converted to Islam. Bakri recalled Adebolajo was a shy person eager to learn about Islam. <em>Radical cleric Omar Bakri, on bail in Lebanon on charges including incitement to murder, attends a sit-in in the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on June 29, 2012, demanding the disarming of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, considered the most powerful military force in the country. (MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/GettyImages)</em>
The former head of the radical group al-Muhajiroun, an Islamist group notorious for glorifying al-Qaida and tied to terror plots at home and abroad. Choudary has in the past described the 9/11 hijackers on the United States as the "Magnificent 19." He also featured prominently in fiery protests against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He is the manager of the Sharia Court in Britain. Sharia is Muslim law as derived from the Quran. Choudary says Adebolajo took part in several demonstrations by the group in London. <em>Anjem Choudary, a member of the pro-Islamic group 'Islam4UK,' poses for photographs in front of the Houses of Parliament on January 4, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)</em>
Al-Qaida linked terrorist group in Somalia. Al-Shabab boasts several hundred foreign fighters, including those from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It has also recruited fighters from Somali communities in the United States and Europe. Al-Shabab once controlled almost all of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, but African Union and Somali forces pushed the militants out of the city in 2011. British officials have not said which of the two suspects attempted to link up with the group. <em>In this Wednesday, May 11, 2011 file photo, American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami, then 27, also known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, right, and deputy leader of al-Shabab Sheik Mukhtar Abu Mansur Robow, left, sit under a banner which reads "Allah is Great" during a news conference of the militant group at a farm in southern Mogadishu's Afgoye district in Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)</em>