Three soldiers on an anti-terror patrol in the southern French city of Nice have been stabbed by a knife-wielding man, a French police union official said Tuesday.
Sarah Baron, the union official in Nice, told The Associated Press the extent of the soldiers' injuries is not yet clear. But according to French television station BFM TV, one soldier was injured in the face and another in the arm – both believed not to be serious injuries, The Local reports. The soldiers were protecting a Jewish community center.
Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker had an identity card with the name Moussa Coulibaly. He was detained after the stabbing.
The surname, which is relatively common for families of Malian descent, is the same as that of the man who seized hostages in a kosher supermarket in Paris and gunned down a policewoman last month.
The attacker, aged about 30, had a record of theft and violence, the official said on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. His motive was not yet clear, the official added.
Estrosi also told BFM TV that a possible accomplice had been detained.
France has been on high alert since the attacks in the Paris region by three Islamic extremists that left 20 people dead, including the gunmen. More than 10,000 soldiers have been deployed around the country to protect sensitive locations, including major shopping areas, synagogues, mosques and transit hubs.
The attacker reportedly had been fined for traveling on a tram without a ticket.
"He paid his fine without flinching and then rushed at the soldiers," French newspaper Nice Matin reported, according to The Local.
Another police official said the attacker pulled a knife at least 8 inches long out of a bag and set upon one of the soldiers, injuring him in the chin. He then swiped two other soldiers — one in the cheek, the other in the forearm — before being apprehended by riot police stationed near the building.
A manager at the center, who did not want to be identified because she was afraid, confirmed soldiers posted in front of the building were attacked. She said it happened around lunchtime and no one was inside the office.
Earlier Tuesday, French authorities arrested seven men and a woman suspected of involvement in a network to send fighters to join Islamic extremists in Syria.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said those arrested in the Paris and Lyon areas are not suspected of links to the Jan. 7-9 attacks.
Police are trying to thwart new violence and find possible accomplices to three radical Islamic gunmen who attacked a kosher grocery and newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The men claimed allegiance to extremists in the Mideast.
Three of those arrested Tuesday had traveled to Syria and returned in December 2014, a French official said, though it was unclear whether they joined the Islamic State group or another group.
The network began sending French fighters to Syria in May 2013, and at least one of them was killed there, the official said. Other members of the network are still in Syria.
The group did not appear to be involved in any particular plot, or linked to any other networks already broken up in France in recent months, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly identified discussing security matters.
France has seen hundreds of homegrown radicals join extremists abroad, most linked to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Cazeneuve said recent atrocities by the Islamic State group — including the killing of a Japanese hostage — "only strengthen the government's determination to fight terrorism every day and every hour."
French authorities have come under criticism for being overzealous in cracking down on potential threats since the attacks, arresting dozens for comments seen as defending terrorism and notably questioning an 8-year-old boy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.