French stabbing suspect charged with attempted murder as injured toddlers remain hospitalised

Security forces inspecting the scene of knife attack
Image source: AP Security forces investigate the scene of a knife attack in Annecy in the French Alps

Paris Knife Attack: French judges on Saturday handed a preliminary charge of attempted murder to a man suspected of stabbing four young children and two adults in a French Alps park, an attack that sparked outrage across France and beyond.

The 31-year-old Syrian refugee with permanent Swedish residence has a 3-year-old daughter living in Sweden, said regional prosecutor Line Bonnett-Mathies. Witnesses told investigators the suspect mentioned his daughter, his wife and Jesus Christ during Thursday’s attack in the lakeside town of Annecy.

The prosecutor said the victims, who had come from several countries, were no longer in a life-threatening condition. Children between the ages of 22 months and 3 years are admitted to the hospital.

Police detained the suspect in a lakeside park in the city of Annecy when bystanders – in particular, a Catholic pilgrim who repeatedly swung at the assailant with his backpack – tried to stop him. Bonnet-Mathies said the suspected attacker, whose name was not released, appeared before investigating judges in Annecy on Saturday and was charged with attempted murder and armed resistance. He is in custody pending further investigation.

The prosecutor said the suspect refused to talk to investigators, and was examined by a psychiatrist and other doctors, who deemed him fit to face charges. She said the motive was not clear, but it did not appear to be terrorism-related.

Witnesses said they heard the attacker refer to his daughter, his wife and Jesus Christ, according to the prosecutor, who said he was wearing a cross and had two Christian images with him at the time of the attack. He also had 480 euros in cash and a Swedish driver’s license, and was sleeping in the common area of ​​the Annecy apartment building.

Damien Delbaye, director of the regional judicial police, said he had traveled to Italy and Switzerland before arriving in France last October, and that French police are coordinating with colleagues in those countries to learn more about his trajectory.

The child victims were two French 2-year-old cousins, a boy and a girl, who were at the playground with their grandmother when the assailant appeared; a British 3-year-old girl visiting Annecy with her parents; and a 22-month-old Dutch girl, according to the prosecutor.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the victims and their families, first responders and witnesses on Friday. Macron said doctors were “very confident” about the condition of the two cousins, who were among the most seriously injured.

“The injured British girl is awake, she is watching television,” Macron said. Macron said an injured Dutch girl had also made a recovery and a seriously wounded adult – who was shot by police while detaining the suspected assailant and was both wounded – was regaining consciousness.

The seriously injured youth was treated in Annecy. Portugal’s foreign ministry said he is Portuguese and “now out of danger.” “He was injured while trying to stop the assailant from fleeing from the police,” she said. The other injured man was released from the hospital with his left elbow bandaged.

The pilgrim, Henri, a 24-year-old who is on a nine-month walking and hitchhiking tour of France’s cathedrals, said he was on his way to another monastery when the horrific incident happened. The assailant lunged at him, but Henry held his ground and used a heavy bag he was carrying to swing at the assailant.

Henry’s father said that his son “told me that the Syrian was incoherent, saying many strange things in different languages, invoking his father, his mother, all the gods.”

The profile of the suspect sparked renewed criticism from far-right and conservative politicians regarding French migration policies. But officials noted that the suspect entered France legally, as he has permanent residency status in Sweden. Sweden and France are both members of the European Union and Europe’s border-free travel area.

The French interior minister said he had applied for asylum in France last year and days before the attack had been refused on the grounds that he had obtained asylum in Sweden in 2013.

latest world news