Stabbing suspect arrested: Police escort 22-year-old described as an adherent of "radical Islam". Photo: AFP
PARIS: A suspect arrested on Wednesday has admitted to the weekend stabbing of a French soldier in Paris and was probably acting based on his "religious ideology", Paris prosecutor Xavier Molins said.
Mr Molins said the man, named Alexandre D, who turns 22 on Thursday, had converted to Islam and had bought two knives and said a Muslim prayer shortly before stabbing Private First Class Cedric Cordiez in the next on Saturday. He was known to police after undergoing an identity check in 2007 for praying on the street.
Mr Molins said the man "admitted to the act" during his arrest early on Wednesday in the Yvelines region just west of Paris, following the attack.
The prosecutor said the suspect had "a fairly clear intent to kill" during the attack, which took place in a busy
underground shopping and transport hub while Cordiez was on patrol with two colleagues.
The stabbing echoed the grisly killing of another soldier in London last week and authorities are seeking to determine if the Paris incident was a copycat.
Cordiez, 23, was wounded but released from hospital on Monday and returned to his unit.
The head of Paris investigative police, Christian Flaesch, said there had been no previous indications of the suspect's involvement in violent extremism.
"Other than the praying in the street, there were no other elements that could have indicated he was dangerous,"
Flaesch said, adding that the man was from a "family that seems completely honourable".
The suspect had shown an "impressive determination" to carry out the attack, stabbing the soldier "several times" with a fold-out knife, Mr Molins said.
Video footage from the shopping centre showed the suspect buying two knives an hour before the attack and praying eight minutes before the stabbing, he said.
Mr Molins said the suspect was known to police for various misdemeanours but did not have a criminal record.
He was arrested at the home of a friend, who Mr Molins said was not connected with the crime and did not know that the suspect was being sought.
A police source said the suspect did not resist during his arrest at around 6am and told officers he had spent three days hiding in an abandoned rail car in the area.
A source close to the investigation earlier said the suspect had been a follower of "traditionalist even radical Islam for the last three or four years".
Police said he was identified thanks to the video footage and traces of his DNA found on items left at the scene in a plastic bag, including a knife and a bottle.
In a statement Interior Minister Manuel Valls said investigators were seeking to know more about the suspect's "motivation, background and family environment".