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France

French barracks attacker was a trainee soldier

PARIS (Reuters) - A man who attacked officers with a knife in a French police barracks was a trainee soldier, officials said, in the second case in four months of a violent assault by someone from within France’s security services.

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The assailant struck on Monday afternoon, at a barracks in Dieuze in eastern France, wounding one officer in the arm before he was shot. The knifeman is now in a stable condition in hospital.

An intelligence source named the suspect as 19-year-old Matthias R and said police had searched his military lodging in Dieuze and raided his home in central France but found no obvious links to Islamist militant networks.

Shortly before the attack, a call was placed to the police from someone saying he was in the armed forces and was preparing an attack in Dieuze in the name of Islamic State, French media cited local prosecutors as saying.

Twenty-four hours after the incident, France’s counter-terrorism prosecutor had not stepped in to lead the probe, suggesting investigators doubt that committing an act of terrorism was the assailant’s primary motive.

French newspaper Le Parisien, quoting sources close to the investigation, said investigators suspect he might have been suicidal.

Monday’s attack at the barracks again raises questions about how France can guard against radicalized people infiltrating its security services. It has Europe’s largest Muslim community.

In October last year, Mickael Harpon, an information technology assistant at police headquarters in central Paris, went on a knife rampage inside the building, killing four people before being shot dead.

A convert to Islam, Harpon had shown signs of possible radicalization before the attack but no formal investigation was launched and he kept his job.

“It’s been confirmed that the attacker was a young soldier, two months into initial training and currently in his probationary period,” Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter.

“He was not on duty at the time of the incident. It’s now for the judicial authorities to investigate the motivation for this attack, which I condemn,” she wrote.

Paris has suffered major attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.

In Britain on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would act to stop the early release of convicted terrorists from jail after an Islamist militant stabbed two people in a street attack in south London.

Writing by Christian Lowe and Tangi Salaün; Editing by Giles Elgood

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