An attempted murder enquiry has been opened in Paris after two Muslim cousins were "stabbed repeatedly" underneath the Eiffel Tower, prosecutors have confirmed.
French police have arrested two female suspects following the suspected racist attacks which were allegedly accompanied by the words "Dirty Arabs!".
Those in custody – who have not been named – are described as being white women of ‘European appearance’, who now face ‘attempted murder’ charges, said city prosecutors.
It follows rising tensions caused by the beheading of a teacher in the Paris suburbs last Friday by a radicalised terrorist infuriated that cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were shown to children.
Members of France’s five million plus Muslim community have complained of increased Islamophobia caused by a government clampdown on mosques and Muslim organisations.
The victims of the latest attacks on Sunday have been identified as French women from an Algerian background named only as Kenza, 49, and Amel, who is a few years younger.
Kenza was stabbed six times and ended up in hospital with a punctured lung, while surgery was carried out on one of Amel’s hands, said an investigating source.
No information was initially released about the attack on, leading to uproar on social media, where confirmed images from the scene circulated.
A chilling video records screaming as the stabbings are carried out on Sunday evening.
It was not until Tuesday that a statement from Paris Police read: ‘On October 18, at around 8pm, the police intervened following an emergency call from two women wounded by knives on the Champs-de-Mars’ – the Field of Mars by the Eiffel Tower.
A source at the Paris prosecutors’ office confirmed on Wednesday: ‘An investigation for attempted murder has been opened in connection with the stabbings.’
One of the attacked women wore a face covering, but it was not clear whether this was because of the Coronavirus pandemic, or for cultural or religious reasons, said the source.
Kenza told Liberation newspaper: "We were a family, five adults in all and four children.
"We had gone out for a walk. At the level of the Eiffel Tower there is a small rather dark park, we took a little tour in it.
"As we walked, there were two dogs that come towards us. The children got scared. My cousin, who was veiled, asked the two women if it was possible to keep their dogs with them because the children were afraid."
The dog owners refused to put their animals on a leash, and a furious argument followed – one that included racist insults.
It is then – around 8pm and in darkness – that the two women with the dogs allegedly pulled out a knife, and launched themselves at Kenza and Amel.
"One of the two took out a knife, she slashed me on the skull, on the back on the ribs and there was a third blow on the arm," said Kenza. "They then attacked my cousin."
"Dirty Arab!" was heard, according to witnesses, and "Go home to your own country".
"Call the emergency services, she stabbed him," was also heard, as well as "Let go, you big beast!"
Two local shop workers then intervened and held one of the attackers down until the police arrived. The second suspect was arrested later.
Details about the stabbings come as the President Emmanuel Macron prepares to lead a National Hommage to Samuel Paty, the 47-year-old teacher who was stabbed to death last week by Russia-born killer, Abdullakh Anzarov, 18.
The beheading happened outside the Bois-d'Aulne school in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, north of Paris, where Mr Paty taught French and Geography.