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French soldier stabbed on patrol

Police hunt for a man suspected of stabbing a French soldier in the throat while he was on patrol west of Paris.

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French anti-terror investigators are investigating the stabbing of a soldier in Paris in an attack that echoed the grisly killing of another soldier in London, where British police are holding three new suspects.

French soldier Cedric Cordier is in hospital in a stable condition after the Saturday stabbing in a busy underground shopping and transport hub where he had been on patrol with two colleagues.

French President Francois Hollande said the stabbing could not be linked to the London murder "at this stage", although his interior minister, Manuel Valls, said the "sudden violence of the attack" was similar.

Investigation continues: An anti-terror unit will handle the investigation of the stabbing of the Frecnh soldier which was captured by surveillance cameras.

Investigation continues: An anti-terror unit will handle the investigation of the stabbing of the Frecnh soldier which was captured by surveillance cameras. Photo: AFP

The assault on another soldier three days after Afghanistan veteran Drummer Lee Rigby was hacked to death on a London street in an Islamist attack will raise fears of a spiral of brazen violence against Western soldiers on their home soil.

In Britain, three men were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to murder Rigby.

Two men aged 28 an 24 were arrested at a home in southeast London. Police fired a Taser electric stun gun on the older suspect, and on a 21-year-old man they arrested in a street around a short distance from the murder scene.

"The stabbing could not be linked to the London murder "at this stage": France's President Francois Hollande.

The stabbing could not be linked to the London murder "at this stage": French President Francois Hollande. Photo: AFP

All three are being held by detectives from the Counter Terrorism Command supported by specialist firearms officers.

Police also searched four residential addresses in southeast London.

The two men suspected of murdering Rigby, 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo and 22-year-old Michael Adebowale, remain in a stable condition under armed guard in separate hospitals after being shot by police at the scene of the killing.

Lee Rigby: There are fears that the Paris stabbing so close after the London attack may prompt more violence against Western soldiers on their home soil.

Lee Rigby: Killed in London. Photo: AFP

After the killing, the pair launched into an Islamist tirade against British military involvement in Muslim countries, captured on film by a passerby whose footage of Adebolajo, hands bloody and wielding a knife and meat cleaver, shocked the nation.

Both suspects were brought up by Nigerian Christians and converted to Islam in their teens, and recently were seen handing out extremist literature in the streets -- to the concern of their families.

Hollande said French authorities are still piecing together information on the Paris stabber, who staged an equally public attack but then melted into the crowd without a word.

"We still do not know the exact circumstances of the attack or the identity of the attacker, but we are looking at all options," Hollande told reporters accompanying him on a trip to Ethiopia.

Hollande cautioned against drawing a link to the London killing, but Valls said: "There are elements, the sudden violence of the attack, that could lead one to think there could be a comparison with what happened in London."

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Cordier had been targeted because he was a soldier and said he was working with Valls to crack down on "terrorism".

"We are pursuing a merciless fight against terrorism and against any act that threatens our security," he told reporters after visiting the wounded man in hospital.

The local prosecutor's office said an anti-terror unit would handle the investigation of the stabbing, which was captured by surveillance cameras.

The attacker, described by police as bearded and around 1.9 metres tall, approached the 23-year-old soldier, stabbed him and then disappeared into the crowd.

Cordier, who was armed and in uniform, was patrolling Paris's La Defense business district as part of France's Vigipirate anti-terrorist surveillance scheme, which deploys troops at high-profile tourist, business and transport sites.

In Britain, Faith Matters, a state-funded organisation which works to reduce extremism, said it has recorded a huge increase in anti-Muslim incidents reported to its helpline since the killing.

"It's a hugely worrying development," director Fiyaz Mughal told AFP, saying the organisation had been informed of 162 incidents in the past 48 hours, compared to a daily average of four to six.

They were mainly verbal attacks on women wearing the Islamic headscarf in the street, he said, but there were also online attacks and some violence.

A number of people have been charged over malicious comments made on social networking sites.

AFP