Was the stabbing of a soldier in France a copycat attack?

French authorities have arrested a suspect in the stabbing of an on-duty soldier in Paris, an attack that mirrors the recent killing of a soldier on the streets of London.

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
Police officers stand near the cordoned off spot where a French soldier was stabbed in the neck in the busy commercial district of La Defense, outside Paris, Saturday. Authorities are investigating any possible links with the recent slaying of a British soldier.

In the aftermath of attack, governments always brace for potential “copycat” plots. Nearly a decade and a half after the mass shooting at Columbine High School, authorities continue to foil plans that emulate the deadly events of that day.

Now France is wondering if it has its own copycat in its midst.

Over the weekend, an on-duty soldier was stabbed in Paris, and officials said Wednesday morning that a young male suspect has been detained about 30 miles from the capital.

The case is being handled by anti-terrorist investigators. It comes just days after the gruesome, fatal stabbing in London of an off-duty soldier by two suspects who claimed to have carried out the act as revenge against western military involvement in Muslim countries. 

The Monitor asked then how widespread the sentiment is among European Muslims that military intervention is an attack on Islam itself

It is unclear if the suspect in Paris shared the same views as those in London, who are Britons of Nigerian descent. France has been on high alert against revenge attacks since its intervention in Mali in January to root out radical Muslim rebels.

The assailant, in his young 20s, was captured on camera uttering a prayer before stabbing in the neck the soldier on group patrol in a busy transport hub of Paris Saturday. Authorities said he was a convert to Islam, and had a record for theft and possession of firearms.

At a Wednesday press conference, prosecutor François Molins said: "The nature of the incident, the fact it took place three days after London, and the prayer just before the act lead us to believe he acted on the basis of religious ideology and that his desire was to attack a representative of the state."

Copycats are just one concern of authorities after a violent attack. So too is the rage such events generate. Since last week, mosques have been attacked and anti-Muslim protests have formed throughout the UK. 

If the attack in France turns out to be a clear case of terrorism too, the country will have to brace for the backlash.

[Editor's note: The original subhead mischaracterized whether the French soldier was on duty when he was stabbed.]

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