A knife-wielding man attacked a group of preschoolers playing by a lake in the French Alps on Thursday, injuring four people plus an adult and sending shockwaves across the country.
A police source told AFP that the suspect, a Syrian in his 30s, received refugee status in Sweden in April.
Witnesses described the knife-wielding suspect running around in a frenzy, attacking seemingly random people before being shot and killed by police near the shores of Lake Annecy.
Former professional soccer player Anthony Le Tallec told local newspaper Dauphine Libre as he jogged in the park: “He wanted to attack everyone. I walked away and he lunged at an old man and a woman and stabbed the old man.”
Another witness, Malou, told BFM TV that the attacker attacked the children before the old man and was “yelling, but it was not really understood”.
A security source told AFP that two children – about three years old – and an adult victim are in critical condition and are struggling to stay in hospital.
A source in the police indicated that the search for the detainee at the scene is continuing, but he was not known to the French security services.
Annecy is a picturesque town in the French Alps near the border with Switzerland, popular with tourists and home to one of the largest animation festivals in the world, which starts on Sundays.
French President Emmanuel Macron called it “an absolutely cowardly attack”.
“The nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with (the victims), as well as with their families and emergency services,” he wrote on Twitter.
minute of silence
Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne’s office announced she would be heading to the scene, and French parliamentarians observed a minute’s silence.
“We hope that the consequences of this serious attack will not drive the country into mourning,” Parliament Speaker Yael Brown-Bevitt told lawmakers, interrupting the heated debate over pension reform.
The attacker’s motives and the identity of the attacker are under investigation, and the local prosecutor is expected to provide more details at a news conference.
In 2012, a French-Algerian extremist named Mohamed Merah killed seven people in a shootout in the southern city of Toulouse, as the killings of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school sparked widespread outrage.
Most recently, the beheading of a teacher in broad daylight near his school on the outskirts of Paris by a radicalized Chechen refugee sparked shock and heartbreak, as well as a national debate about the influence of radical Islam in local communities. . .
Thursday’s attack is likely to bring more scrutiny to immigration and asylum policy, with right-wing politicians immediately appropriating the alleged perpetrator’s identity as a refugee.
“The investigation will determine what happened, but the perpetrator appears to have the same image that you often see in these attacks,” Eric Ciotti, leader of the right-wing Republican Party, told reporters in Parliament.
We must draw conclusions without being naive, with strength and clarity. »
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, wrote that she learned the news with “dread and horror”.