PARIS-Four very young children have been stabbed in a park near Lake Annecy, in France’s south-east.
Police overpowered and arrested the attacker, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said.
Reports say the children were aged about three years old and at least two were in a critical condition. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that one of the injured children was a British national. One of the other children is reportedly Dutch. Police have confirmed that the suspect is a 31-year-old Syrian, who had refugee status in Sweden. This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
Regional deputy Antoine Armand described the attack as “abominable” and said authorities were investigating but knew “very little”.
Video footage of the attack uploaded to social media - too graphic for broadcast - shows a little playground, with life going on as normal - children running around, and their parents and minders there. Then a man comes in with a knife and very quickly, there are screams. He’s clearly looking for children to attack - and he attacks one in a pushchair. In part of the video, life is going on as normal, and in another part, there’s a man wandering around with a knife. You can see he is actively looking for children.
French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and Mr Darmanin went to the scene of the attack.
Ms Borne told a news conference that four children and two adults were injured, with some of them in intensive care. The attacker has “no criminal or psychiatric record” and has a child “aged around the same age as those he attacked”, she said. Annecy prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis told reporters that the victims included one who is 22 months old and one who is three years old, adding that the children were in a “severe state”. One of the children is Dutch, she said. She said there “doesn’t seem to be any kind of terrorist motivation”.
Police say the suspect has refugee status in Sweden and recently came to France, leaving behind a wife and three-year-old daughter. In an application last year for refugee status in France, he said he was a Syrian Christian.
During the incident, the attacker invoked the name of Jesus Christ.
In recent years, France has become accustomed to knife attacks, often carried out by solitary young men with backgrounds in petty crime and some Islamist connection. It is clear that this attack is of a different nature.
So far, most politicians are being careful not to leap to conclusions, but it is inevitable that the attack will feed into the debate on immigration.
Local officials earlier said six children were injured in the attack, but authorities later confirmed six people in total had been hurt, including four children.
He is said to have attacked the children - some in pushchairs - as they visited the park, before fleeing the scene and stabbing an elderly man nearby.
Police intervened and the perpetrator was shot in the legs.
France’s National Assembly has observed a minute of silence and roads are blocked around the scene of the attack.
President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that the nation was in “shock” over the “act of cowardice”.
Mr Cleverly said that British consular officials were travelling to the area “to support the family” of the injured child.
“We stand in strong solidarity with the people of France at this terrible time,” he said at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.