French stabbing "religiously motivated": Prosecutor

PARIS (REUTERS) - Evidence gathered by French authorities suggests the Muslim convert suspected of stabbing a soldier near Paris was acting in accordance with his religious beliefs, a state prosecutor said after the suspect's arrest on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference the suspect was seen on video surveillance camera "saying a Muslim prayer" minutes before an attack which came three days after the May 22 murder of a British soldier on the streets of London.

"That leads us to believe he was acting on the basis of religious beliefs," Molins said.

"It seems clear the intent was to kill," he said of the attack on a 23-year-old French soldier who was patrolling the La Defense business neighbourhood west of Paris. The soldier was released from the hospital on Monday.

Earlier, police sources said they had arrested a 22-year-old suspect in a Paris suburb after identifying him through fingerprints.

French police have said they believe the attack was inspired by the hacking to death of a British serviceman in southeast London by men shouting Islamist slogans.

France has already been on heightened security alert since January when its troops began fighting Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists in Mali.

Authorities are increasingly worried about home-grown militants and have stepped up patrols in public places.

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