Annecy knife attack: What do we know about toddlers stabbed in French town?

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Annecy knife attack: What do we know about toddlers stabbed in French town?
French police personnel maintain a secure cordon in Annecy, south-eastern France on June 8, 2023, following a mass stabbing in the French Alpine town. Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

French president Emmanuel Macron has described a "nation in shock" after four preschool children - including a British toddler - were stabbed in a knife attack in a small French town. Here's what we know so far about the tragedy in Annecy.


What happened?

At around 9.45am on the morning of Thursday, June 8th, a man attacked pre-school children with a knife in a public play area in the Alpine town of Annecy.

A video circulating online, apparently filmed by a passer-by on a mobile phone, shows the man in a part of the play park that features a slide and climbing frame, among mothers with young children in strollers. 

The Haute-Savoie town of Annecy, home to a population of 125,000, is a popular tourist destination, best known for its beautiful lake, filled with meltwater from the nearby Alps.


The man was arrested shortly afterwards by local police.

Who were the victims?

Several different injury totals were given in the chaotic aftermath of the attack, but the victims were four children and two adults.

Two of the children were foreign - a British boy and a Dutch boy, describing as tourists visiting the area.

Prosecutor Line Bone-Mathis said: "One of the victims was aged 22 months, two were two-years-old, one was three-years-old. One of the victims was a Dutch boy, another was a British boy.

"All four children are in a critical condition with knife wounds".

On Friday morning it was announced that two children remained in a critical condition, but the other child and the adult had stabilised. 

The prosecutor said that one of the adults had more minor knife wounds, the other - a 78-year-old man - had serious knife injuries and had also been wounded by a police firearm during the arrest of the attacker.

Three of the victims - two children and one adult - are in a critical condition, described as fighting for their lives. One of the children has been transferred to the hospital in nearby Geneva.

In total 37 people have been treated for shock.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, speaking at a meeting of the OECD in Paris, confirmed that one of the injured children was a British national.

Who is the attacker?

The attacker is a 31-year-old man, who police say has told them that he is a Syrian Christian asylum seeker. He had previously lived in Sweden where he had been granted refugee status.

He was arrested at the scene.

It is not known whether he lives in Annecy, but local people have told media that they had seen him regularly in Pâquier - the area close to the lake where the attack took place, regularly in the recent weeks.

In a video viewed by AFP and confirmed by a source close to the case, the attacker can be heard twice saying "in the name of Jesus Christ" in English.

Recently divorced, he had lived for 10 years in Sweden where he was granted refugee status in April, security sources and his ex-wife told AFP.

"He called me around four months ago. He was living in a church," his ex-wife said on condition of anonymity, saying he had left Sweden because he had been unable to get Swedish nationality.


Is this a terror attack?

France has suffered a wave of terror attacks in recent years, including several that involve a single attacker with a knife in a public place.

However, in this case the motive is still unknown. Anti-terror police say they are monitoring developments but are not currently involved in the investigation, which is being run by local police.

The prosecutor said: "According to the initial investigation, there is no terrorist motive for the attack".


Politicians from across the political spectrum have expressed their horror at the attack, with Emmanuel Macron describing "a nation in shock".

A minute's silence was held in the French parliament, and at Paris City Hall.

Within hours of the attack there were calls circulating on social media for the far-right to demonstrate in Annecy, using a hashtag popularised by the 2022 extreme-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour.

Local authorities in Annecy banned demonstrations in the town on Thursday night.

Video of the attack apparently filmed by a passer-by has been circulated on social media by far-right accounts. Police have warned users that broadcasting or sharing videos of violence - including by retweeting - is a criminal offence in France.


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