A knife-wielding man stabbed to death four preschool children and wounded two adults near a lake in the French Alps on Thursday in an attack that shocked the entire country.
The suspect is a Syrian in his 30s who was granted refugee status in Sweden in April, a police source told AFP. He was arrested at the scene.
In the video, filmed by a passerby in Annecy, a city 30 kilometers south of the Swiss city of Geneva, he is seen wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and shorts, holding a small blade in his hand.
“The man wanted to attack everyone”
Witnesses described a knife-wielding man running wild through a public park on the shores of Lake Annecy, apparently attacking people at random before he was shot dead by police.
“He wanted to attack everyone. I moved away and he lunged at the old man and the woman and stabbed the old man,” former pro footballer Anthony Le Tallec, who was running in the park, told local newspaper Dauphine Libere.
Another witness, Malo, told BFM that the man attacked the children in front of the old man and “shouted, but it was not entirely clear.”
A security source told AFP that two young children and an adult victim were in critical condition.
The local authorities of Haute-Savoie reported on Twitter that there were “six victims, including four children.”
moment of silence
French President Emmanuel Macron called it “an attack of absolute cowardice.”
“People are in shock. Our thoughts are with (the injured), as well as with their families and emergency services,” he wrote on Twitter.
The office of Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne announced that she was leaving for the scene, and members of the French Parliament observed a moment of silence.
“We hope that the consequences of this extremely serious attack … will not cause mourning in the country,” Parliament Speaker Yael Braun-Pivé told deputies, interrupting a heated debate on pension reform.
The attacker’s motives are being investigated, and the local prosecutor’s office is expected to provide details at a press conference.
TV channel BFM reported that the suspect introduced himself as a Christian from Syria.
“Horror and Horror”
France has endured a series of traumatic attacks in recent years.
In 2012, a French-Algerian Islamic extremist named Mohamed Merah killed seven people, including three children and a rabbi, at a Jewish school during a shootout in the southern city of Toulouse.
More recently, the beheading of a teacher in broad daylight in 2020 near his school in a Paris suburb by a radicalized Chechen refugee sparked shock and grief, as well as a national debate about the impact of radical Islam in disadvantaged areas of the country.
Thursday’s attack is likely to bring more scrutiny to France’s immigration and asylum policy as right-wing politicians seize on the identity of the suspected perpetrator as a refugee.
“The investigation will establish what happened, but it looks like the perpetrator has the same profile that you often see in these attacks,” right-wing Republican Party leader Eric Ciotti told reporters in Parliament.
“You need to draw conclusions without naivety, with strength and a clear mind,” he said.
The leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, wrote that she learned the news “with fear and horror.”
Amid a spate of criminal attacks and a growing fear of crime, Macron recently said that France is undergoing a process of “decivilization,” the title of a book by notorious far-right ideologue Renaud Camus.
The comments echo those of Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin in 2020 who said France was “going wild”.