A knife-wielding assailant attacked three French soldiers taking part in an anti-terror patrol outside a Jewish community center in Nice. The attack comes amid a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks in France.
Three French soldiers were attacked by a knife-wielding man in the city of Nice while taking part in an anti-terror patrol in front of a Jewish community center Tuesday, officials said.
The attacker was detained shortly after the attack and held an identity card bearing the name Moussa Coulibaly, police union official Sarah Baron said. The three soldiers' lives are not in danger.
According to police, the attacker used a knife at least 8 inches (20 centimeters) long to attack the officers, slashing two in the face and one in the arm before he was overpowered by riot police stationed in the building, which is home to Nice's Jewish community center.
"Shortly after 2 p.m. (0100 UTC), while three soldiers were patrolling in front of a Jewish site...a passer-by violently attacked on of them with a large knife, aiming at his face and neck," police said.
A police official told the Associated Press that Coulibaly is about 30 years old and had a record of theft and violence. He was expelled from Turkey last week and was interrogated by French intelligence services upon his return to France, security sources told AFP news agency.
Anti-terrorist prosecutors in Paris have now taken control of the investigation.
Nice Mayor Christian Etrosi took to social media to condemn the attacks, and called for "heavy sanctions" against Coulibaly.
Rise in anti-Semitic attacks
France has bolstered security nationwide in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks by Islamist extremists that left 20 dead. More than 10,000 soldiers have been deployed throughout France to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish institutions, major shopping areas, transit hubs and mosques.
The suspect in the Nice attack shares his surname with an attacker killed in a Paris siege that followed the Charlie Hebdo incident.
Earlier Tuesday authorities arrested eight people on suspicion of being involved in a network sending fighters to join the "Islamic State" in Syria.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has vowed to combat "unbearable" rising anti-Semitism in France, after statistics revealed a doubling in anti-Semitic attacks this past year.
France has Europe's largest Jewish population, between 500,000 and 600,000, as well as its largest Muslim population, estimated to be near 5 million.
Some 7,000 Jews left France for Israel last year, more than twice as many as in 2013.
bw/rc (AP, AFP, dpa)