Dutch child among six stabbed in random attack on playground in Annecy, France
Four children and two adults were stabbed by a Syrian man man during a seemingly random attack in Annecy, France on Thursday. Two of the children hurt were identified as tourists, one with Dutch citizenship and the other being British, said Line Bonnet-Mathis, the prosecutor in Annecy.
Two children and one adult were critically injured in the attack, which happened at about 9:45 a.m. Their nationalities were not released. One of the two children was airlifted to a hospital in Geneva about 40 kilometers north of the crime scene.
The children hurt in the attack include one who is 22 months old, two who are 2 years of age, and a 3 year old, the prosecutor's office said. Some French media outlets have reported that the 22-month-old child is a Dutch citizen.
Aside from the severely injured adult, the other adult suffered more minor injuries. One of the two adult victims is a 78-year-old man. "They were transferred to various hospitals within the area and to Switzerland," Bonnet-Mathis said.
Video shot by a witness showed the suspect running out of a playground as people are screaming. Someone can be heard shouting "In the name of Jesus Christ," though it is not clear if the suspect yelled that. The suspect then runs at an adult male who attempts to swing a shoulder bag at him.
The apparent offender slashes at him with an object before running back into the playground, and sprints towards a screaming woman trying to guard a child in a pram. He then appears to stab the child twice, as people yell for help. He runs towards the pram several more times, before fleeing the scene.
"I saw dozens of people running in the opposite direction. A mother told me, 'Run, someone is stabbing everyone," said FC Annecy football player Anthony Le Tellec in an Instagram post that has since been removed. He witnessed the attack while out for a run in the area. He wound up face-to-face with the assailant who then stabbed another individual while trying to elude capture, Le Tellec said. Video that Le Tellec shot showed the offender's arrest by several officers.
Syrian man Abdalmasih H. identified as suspected assailant
The 32-year-old man suspected of the attack is believed to be a Syrian person who held refugee status in Sweden for 10 years, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said. Local media identified the man as Abdalmasih H. Borne said the incident appeared to be isolated, and Bonnet-Mathis added that there was no "apparent terrorist motive."
H. was quickly apprehended after the attack. He was chased down and followed by bystanders, and police arrived quickly on the scene. He was either left uninjured, or with very minor injuries. "He will be heard as to his motives, which have yet to be determined today," said the prosecutor.
H. is currently without a fixed address. He does not have a criminal background, and does not have a history of contact with psychiatric facilities, Borne and the prosecutor said at a press briefing. He did try to claim asylum in France at the end of 2022, but that was not possible as he already had obtained refugee status in Sweden.
The suspect's ex-wife said he was rejected for Swedish nationality, and left for France eight months ago, according to newswire ANP. He also has a child who is the same age as one of the children who was injured, Bonnet-Mathis stated during her press conference.
It was an "attack of absolute cowardice," said French President Emmanuel Macron. "The Nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with [the victims] as well as their families, and the emergency services who mobilized."
"It is an attack against humanity that took place this morning," said politician Antoine Armand. "An attack on our soul, quite simply. Young children who were playing outside of school time were attacked by an individual." Armand is a National Assembly member representing the second constituency of Haute-Savoie, which includes Annecy.