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Two French soldiers stabbed in knife attack
01:15 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: Suspect flew to Turkey on January 29 but was turned back, a Turkish official said

Suspect is identified as Moussa Coulibaly

Assailant is arrested with help from soldiers, police, a passer-by

CNN  — 

A soldier and a comrade who came to his aid were stabbed Tuesday on the streets of Nice in southern France, officials said, the latest instance of French authorities coming under attack on their native soil.

The suspect – Moussa Coulibaly, according to a representative in the Nice mayor’s office – shares the same last name as one of the three terrorists behind last month’s deadly attacks in and around Paris.

Officials cannot confirm he’s related to Amedy Coulibaly, the man who killed a police officer in the Paris suburb of Montrouge, then took hostages in a kosher grocery in the French capital, a standoff that ended with him and four hostages dead. Coulibaly is a common name for families of Malian descent.

“(The) assault … seemed extremely deliberate or even premeditated against the military,” Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told CNN affiliate BFMTV. “… Justice must be extremely severe.”

They were among the French military forces who have been out on the streets around sensitive sites following last month’s terror attacks that included the massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Philippe Pradal, Nice’s deputy head of security, told BFMTV that the assailant initially didn’t do much harm because the soldier he attacked had on a bulletproof vest.

“After realizing the inefficiency of his stabs,… he tried to hurt him in the face,” Pradal said.

The attacker injured another soldier trying to assist before he was stopped, with help from a passer-by, public transit officers and municipal police.

French intelligence was aware of Moussa Coulibaly, 30, and alerted Turkish officials when he flew to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport from Rome on January 29, said an official in the Turkish prime ministry. He was put on a flight back to Rome that same day, the source said.

Nice’s mayor said the attack shows the importance of the stepped-up security measures put in place in recent weeks.

Estrosi tweeted that he wants French troops in Nice to be supplemented by reinforcements.

CNN’s Alexander Felton contributed to this report.