A bearded man was filmed ‘praying’ shortly before the attempted murder of a French soldier in Paris, it emerged today.

The high quality CCTV footage strengthens the theory that the attacker was an Islamist fanatic inspired by the killing of a British serviceman in London.

It came as pictures were released of 23-year-old Private Cedric Cordier, the Frenchman attacked in La Defense district of west Paris on Saturday evening.

The soldier, who was stabbed in the neck while he was on anti-terrorist patrol, was released from hospital today but is said to have been left ‘traumatised’ by the ambush.

Detectives have now confirmed that there are ‘high quality images’ of a ‘tall, athletic bearded man’ aged about 30 and of North African origin praying near the crime scene.

‘He ran away into a crowded train station, and is still at large,’ said a source close to the investigation.

The French attack happened just three days after Lee Rigby, a British soldier, was allegedly hacked to death by two Islamists near Woolwich barracks, in south London.

Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, said the Paris attack appeared to be an ‘act of terrorism’ and police were pursuing ‘serious leads.’

Police are conducting DNA tests after finding a bag near the crime scene with a box cutter, and a sheath for a second knife.

Police officers stand near the cordoned off spot where a French soldier was stabbed in the throat in the busy commercial district of La Defense, outside Paris

Police officers stand near the cordoned off spot where the French soldier was stabbed in the throat in the busy commercial district of La Defense, outside Paris

 
A police investigator works at the site where a man armed with a box cutter attacked a French soldier patrolling a subway station of Paris' business district, stabbing him in the neck

A police investigator works at the site where a man armed with a box cutter attacked a French soldier patrolling a subway station of Paris’ business district, stabbing him in the neck

 

 
The soldier in uniform was armed and was patrolling as part of France's Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance scheme

The soldier in uniform was armed and was patrolling as part of France’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance scheme

Cordier’s girlfriend, Aurelie, told Le Parisian newspaper he was in a state of shock and shot bolt upright in his hospital bed when a nurse came in during the night, convinced it was his attacker ‘come to finish the job’.

 

Aurelie added: ‘He is really lucky to be alive. Two centimetres further, and it would have been his carotid artery.

 

‘You’d expect this sort of thing if he was on a mission to Mali but you don’t expect that in Paris,’ she said.

 

France has been on high alert for attacks by Islamist militants since its military intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali in January.

 

That prompted threats against French interests from AQIM, the North African wing of al Qaeda.

 

The latest warning was published on YouTube a few weeks before gunmen this week attacked a military base and a French uranium extraction site in the central African state of Niger, killing 24 soldiers and one civilian.

 

Paris police conceded yesterday that the stabbing  was inspired by the terrorist murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Police spokesman Christophe Crepin said: ‘You don’t have to be a great observer to see that people are taking inspiration from what’s happened abroad.’

 

Politicians also acknowledged the similarities. ‘The sudden violence… could lead one to believe there might be a comparison with what happened in London,’ said interior minister Manuel Valls.

 

And defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that attack had undoubtedly been an ‘attempt to kill’ the soldier, whose regiment had recently fought in Afghanistan.

Two comrades from the 4th Cavalry Regiment were with him, and carrying automatic rifles, but they failed to react before the man ran off.

‘We are looking through video surveillance footage,’ said an officer at the scene of the crime. ‘He was seen taking off his Arab-style robes and running away wearing European clothing.’

Detectives are convinced that the attacker was ‘inspired’ by the savage murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, who was allegedly hacked down by two radical Islamists in Woolwich, south London, last Wednesday. 

While Drummer Rigby was off duty when he was ambushed, Private Cordier was on an anti-terrorism patrol in La Defense business district of west Paris.

France’s defence minister Jean Yves Le Drian said that attack had undoubtedly been an ‘attempt to kill’ the soldier, whose regiment had recently fought in Afghanistan.

While Drummer Rigby was off duty, Private Cordier was on an anti-terrorism patrol in La Defense business district of west Paris

‘Copycat’: Unlike Drummer Rigby, who was off-duty when he was ambushed, Private Cordier was on anti-terrorism patrol in La Defence at the time of the attack

Private Cordier, who lost a considerable amount of blood, was rushed to the nearby Percy military hospital for treatment.

France is considered a hotbed of radical Islamists, and the country’s Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance plan is currently in action

 
Advertisements