Suspect 'admits soldier knife attack in Paris'

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Media captionThe prosecutor said the man was seen on CCTV making "a Muslim prayer" minutes before the attack

A 21-year-old suspect arrested earlier over the stabbing of a French soldier near Paris on Saturday has admitted to the crime, officials say.

The man, named only as Alexandre, was a convert to Islam who had "wanted to attack a representative of the state", Prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Police arrested the man on Wednesday morning in the Yvelines region, 45km (28 miles) south-west of the capital.

He was traced thanks to DNA found at the scene, police said.

French anti-terrorist investigators are handling the case.

The victim, Private First Class Cedric Cordier, has been released from hospital, AP news agency reports.

The stabbing took place three days after the killing of British serviceman Drummer Lee Rigby outside a barracks in the Woolwich area of London.

French President Francois Hollande said that while all theories would be investigated, there was no evidence to link the two attacks.

'Intent to kill'

The suspect stabbed the soldier with a "fairly clear intent to kill" and had probably acted based on his "religious ideology", Mr Molins told reporters.

He said the man had been seen on surveillance footage "saying a Muslim prayer" minutes before the attack.

The suspect, who was unemployed and homeless, had already been known to police for petty crimes.

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Media captionThe BBC's Hugh Schofield says the man was identified through DNA on a drinks can left at the scene

He was identified through DNA discovered on a plastic juice bottle left behind at the scene, police spokesman Christophe Crepin said.

Interior Minister Manual Walls earlier warned against drawing hasty conclusions while the investigation was still in its early stages.

"We need to know more about his motives, his background, his family environment," he said during a TV interview.

Pfc Cordier was approached from behind and stabbed in the neck with a small-bladed knife in La Defense business district on Saturday.

The attack took place in a busy underground hall where shops and public transport lines converge.

The 23-year-old victim was in a stable condition after the attack, police said.

Witnesses had described the attacker as a bearded man of North African origin.

The man was monitored on security cameras and seen taking off his robe and running away, officials said.

France is on high alert following a threat from the North African wing of al-Qaeda, related to the country's involvement in Mali.

The raised alert level is one of the reasons why soldiers are on patrol in central Paris and other high-profile areas, correspondents say.

Last year, soldiers were targeted by Islamist militant Mohamed Merah in the Toulouse area of southern France.

He shot dead three French paratroopers then attacked a Jewish school, murdering three children and an adult, before being killed in a police siege.

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