PARIS — A French police officer was attacked and stabbed as he sat in his patrol car early Monday morning in the city of Cannes, on the French Riviera, according to the French authorities.
While the officer was unharmed because he was wearing a protective bulletproof vest and the assailant was quickly taken into custody, the incident triggered alarms because of the brazen nature of the assault and because of a history of terrorist attacks against the police in France.
Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, quickly left Paris for Cannes and was scheduled to meet with the officers involved in the incident, several of whom shot at the attacker to stop him.
“The police officers bravely and professionally responded and saved the life of their colleague and neutralized the individual,” Mr. Darmanin told reporters in Cannes.
Éric Ciotti, a lawmaker who represents the Alpes-Maritimes area that includes Cannes, on Twitter called the assault a “terrorist attack,” and several French media outlets, quoting anonymous police sources, said the assailant had said during the attack that he was acting “in the name of the prophet.”
But the French authorities have not yet officially announced a suspected motive for the attack. France’s antiterrorism prosecutor’s office, which handles terrorism cases nationwide, had not taken over the case by Monday afternoon.
Mr. Darmanin did not identify the attacker and declined to comment on what the man might have said during the attack, which occurred in front of a police station in the city center.
But he said the assailant was an Algerian man in his late 30s who had legally arrived in France from Italy in recent years and who had filed for a French residency permit several weeks ago. The man had no criminal record and had not been flagged by intelligence services for extremism, Mr. Darmanin said.
The officer was sitting in a police car with three colleagues around 6:30 a.m. and was about to go on patrol when the assailant walked up, “ostensibly to ask for some information,” Mr. Darmanin told reporters.
“Once the door was opened, he attacked with a knife,” Mr. Darmanin said. The attacker stabbed the officer in the stomach before trying to attack another officer. Several of the officers then shot the assailant, who was hospitalized with serious injuries, Mr. Darmanin said.
The officer was “extremely shocked” but unharmed thanks to his bulletproof vest, Mr. Darmanin added.
Security forces have become a recurrent target for Islamist terrorists in France over the past decade.
In April, a knife-wielding Islamist extremist killed an officer at a police station about 25 miles southwest of Paris before being shot dead.
Other attacks include an Islamic State assailant who fatally stabbed an off-duty police officer and his companion, a police employee, at their home in 2016. The next year, a gunman killed a veteran police officer on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
And in 2019, in one of the worst attacks on the French police to date, a radicalized police employee stabbed four of his colleagues to death at the Paris Police Headquarters.