Three French soldiers attacked outside Jewish centre

3rd February 2015, Comments 0 comments

Three soldiers on patrol outside a Jewish community centre on the French Riviera were attacked on Tuesday by a knife-wielding man who was only last week expelled from Turkey, sources said.

The attack took place in broad daylight in Nice as the troops were guarding the centre under reinforced security measures introduced after last month's deadly jihadist attacks in Paris.

The assailant left two of the soldiers slightly injured and was immediately arrested, a police source said.

A second person who was seen with the suspect before the incident was also detained, a source close to the case added.

A security source involved in the investigation told AFP the main suspect was expelled from Turkey last week and had been interrogated by French intelligence services upon his return, who had not gathered enough information to take him to court.

Several sources close to the probe named him as Moussa Coulibaly.

However, there was "apparently" no link to Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and four Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket during the Paris attacks that left a total of 17 people dead.

"Aged around 30 years old and from the Paris region, he is... known to the police," the interior and defence ministries said in a joint statement.

One soldier was injured in the arm and the other in the face in the Nice incident.

Both were treated by medical personnel at the scene.

Anti-terrorist prosecutors in Paris have taken charge of the investigation, a judicial source told AFP.

There was no immediate indication why the man carried out the assault.

"Shortly after 2:00 pm (1300 GMT), while three soldiers were patrolling in front of a Jewish site... a passer-by violently attacked one of them with a large knife, aiming at his face and neck," said a police source.

France is home to Europe's largest Jewish population, estimated to be between 500,000 and 600,000, as well as its largest Muslim community, estimated at around five million.

The attacks in Paris last month prompted concerns there would be repercussions in both these communities, and also highlighted that security forces were a target of extremists.

As such, France has deployed some 10,500 soldiers outside "sensitive" sites in the wake of the attacks, notably outside Jewish and Muslim places of worship, schools and media outlets.

But in the two weeks after the January 7-9 attacks, 128 anti-Muslim incidents were reported to authorities in France, not including Paris and its surrounding region -- almost the same amount as the whole of 2014.

And anti-Semitism as a whole has risen, with figures showing anti-Jewish acts doubled over the past year.

President Francois Hollande has since vowed to combat what he calls "unbearable" rising racism and anti-Semitism in the country, where he says "conspiracy theories" and hatred for Israel are fuelling attacks.

© 2015 AFP

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