France ‘in shock’ after knife attack on children in the Alps

Emmanuel Macron has denounced the stabbing as an act “of absolute cowardice”

France ‘in shock’ after knife attack on children in the Alps

PARIS — Four preschool children are in critical condition following a knife attack in the town of Annecy that has sent shockwaves across France. Two adults were also injured in the attack.

The children, aged between one and three, were attacked by a lone man wielding a knife at a playground near the lake of Annecy in the Alps before he was apprehended by police.

The suspect is a homeless Syrian refugee who obtained asylum in Sweden, according to French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who held a press conference near the scene.

“Small children were savagely attacked, we are shocked by this odious and unspeakable act,” she said.

One of the children injured in the stabbing is British, while another is Dutch, said the local prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis, adding that the area was frequented by tourists.

Witnesses describe a man running around the park in an apparent frenzy, looking for victims, before being shot at by the police.

“He wanted to attack everyone. I moved away and he lunged at an old man and woman and stabbed the old man,” former professional footballer Anthony Le Tallec, who was at the scene, said in an interview with the local daily Dauphine Libéré. 

According to several French reports, the suspect was heard shouting “In the name of Jesus Christ” in videos taken by bystanders. The stabbing, however, is not being investigated as a terrorism case, according to the prosecutor.

A security perimeter was set up around the park and children in local schools were told to stay indoors, said Loic Hervé, senator from the Haute-Savoie department.

A nation “in shock

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the stabbing as an act “of absolute cowardice” in comments made online.

“The nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with them, their families and the rescue services,” he wrote.

The attack provoked an outpouring of emotion across the political spectrum in France. In the National Assembly, French lawmakers held a minute of silence on Thursday morning.

The leader of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen, wrote that the news had filled her with “dread and horror” and far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon wrote “How is it possible? To attack little ones? … our heart is in pieces.”

But as the country gears up to debate upcoming legislation on immigration, many voices on the right wing of the conservative party and the far-right say the attack should serve as a wake-up call to review immigration rules.

The head of the conservative Les Républicains, Olivier Marleix, called for drastic cuts to immigration in the wake of the stabbings. “Massive uncontrolled immigration kills. Instead of bemoaning each new crime, let’s hit the brakes on massive immigration,” he wrote online.

The attack has also drawn messages from further afield, with the European Commission condemning a “revolting and frightening attack” in Annecy.

This article has been updated.