Three French soldiers were wounded Tuesday while on patrol near a Jewish community center in southern France by a man who attacked them with a knife, officials said. The soldiers were deployed near the center of Nice on an anti-terror patrol, a common practice in France after the deadly attacks in Paris last month.
An identification card found on the attacker had the name Moussa Coulibaly, the same surname as the man responsible for fatally shooting a policewoman and three hostages at Hyper Cacher, a kosher grocery store in Paris, according to the Associated Press. However, a link between the two men has not yet been found and the surname is common among French families of Malian descent.
Riot police were able to detain Coulibaly and a possible accomplice, and the investigation into their motives is ongoing, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told BFM television.
Earlier on Tuesday, French authorities arrested eight people in Paris and Lyon suspected of being involved in a network that helps people in France get to Syria to fight with terrorist groups. The group had travelled to Syria and returned to France in December, a month before the deadliest terrorist attack in the country in decades.
In early January, three men carried out linked attacks at the office of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo offices and at Hyper Cacher that killed 17 people. The attack propelled France into what Prime Minister Manuel Valls called “a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.”
Since the attacks, France has been loudly beating the drums of a “total war on terror” that sounds similar to what was heard in the U.S. post-9/11. The French government plans 425 million-euro budget ($490 million) to increase its counterterrorism capabilities. The bulk of that money will be used to focus on the country’s internal terrorism problem, by eliminating the threat of foreign fighters trained by jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria who return home, like those arrested on Tuesday.
France’s crackdown on terror has been criticized for turning a blind eye to religious discrimination, already a problem in the country where the state makes a point of enforcing the strictly non-religious values known here as “Republican.” This has left both Jews and Muslims feeling isolated and fearful of attacks or unfair targeting from law enforcement.
“If you’re not Charlie, then you’re a terrorist,” said Nora Boukhari, a police officer in Paris suspended for refusing to hold a moment of silence after the attacks and subsequently accused of being a radical. “If you don’t fit in their square, then you’re a terrorist."