Paris (CNN) -- A French soldier who was stabbed Saturday on the western outskirts of Paris was targeted because of his military service, France's defense minister said.
"The aim was to kill the soldier because he was a soldier," Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNN affiliate BFMTV. The attacker wanted "to kill a soldier who is in charge of French security," he said.
The soldier was stabbed in the neck from behind with either a knife or a box cutter, a Hauts-de-Seine police spokesman said.
The soldier, 23, was hospitalized with non-life-threatening wounds, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The attacker was wearing a robe and appeared to be North African, said Laurent Lefebvre, a spokesman for Syndicat Alliance Police Nationale, a French police union.
Hauts-de-Seine police said they were screening surveillance video. The case has been passed on to anti-terrorism investigators in Paris.
The soldier was on patrol as part of a heightened security plan initiated in certain areas following France's intervention in Mali earlier this year, French President Francois Hollande said.
The attacker fled, triggering a manhunt, Interior Ministry spokesman Marie Murault said.
The incident occurred late in the afternoon in the La Defense neighborhood as the soldier was on a joint patrol with police, the ministry said.
It comes days after an attack in which a British soldier was hit by a car and hacked to death in southeastern London. Moments later, one of his alleged attackers was filmed saying the soldier was killed "because Muslims are dying daily" and that "we must fight them as they fight us," in an apparent reference to British and allied forces' role in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.