A policewoman has been left in a serious condition after being stabbed several times in the throat by a man at a police station in Toulouse. Early reports indicate that the 31-year-old assailant, said to be of Algerian origin had a history of psychiatric problems.

The attacker attempted to grab the gun of the woman officer who has not been named. When she resisted he attacked her with a knife, shouting that she "represented France," La Depeche du Midi reported. The Rempart Saint-Etienne prefecture of Toulouse was in lock down following the incident, which took place at lunchtime on Tuesday (30 August).

French police said the suspect entered the station on the pretext of making a complaint before launching the frenzied assault. He was arrested at the scene.

In Toulouse on Monday, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made his comments about the "bare breasts of Marianne" in relation to the burkini ban.

These remarks were dismissed as those of a "cretin" by university professor and French Revolution specialist Mathilde Larrère.

The burkini issue continues to divide France, which has been hit by a wave of terrorist attacks by Islamists in the past two years including Charlie Hebdo, Paris, Nice and the murder of an elderly priest near Rouen.

Toulouse has previously been the target of terror attacks when Islamist Mohammed Merah went on the rampage there and in nearby Montauban, killing seven people, including three schoolchildren. Merah, also of Algerian origin, was cornered and killed in a siege in the city in 2012.