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French soldiers attacked by man with knife in Nice

French soldiers patrol in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris as part of the highest level of "Vigipirate" security plan after Islamist attacks, January 20, 2015. (REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

PARIS: Three soldiers on an anti-terror patrol in the southern French city of Nice were attacked by a man with a knife Tuesday, a French police union official said.

Sarah Baron said the extent of the soldiers' injuries is not yet clear. She said the attacker was detained but two people with him are believed to have fled after the stabbing in the city center, near the Galeries Lafayette department store.

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.

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 ISIS 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 ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Cazeneuve said recent atrocities by ISIS - 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.

 

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