French stabbing suspect charged with attempted murder after six people attacked

Four young children and two adults were attacked in a French Alps park

Flowers at the children's playground after a knife attack in Annecy, France. EPA
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French judges on Saturday preliminary charged a man with attempted murder after four young children and two adults were attacked in a French Alps park.

Abdelmasih Hanoun, 31, who is originally from Syria, allegedly attacked four children, aged 22 months to three years, and two adults, aged 70 and 78.

The four children – one of whom is British and another Dutch – were attacked on Thursday in a playground in the lakeside town of Annecy.

French prosecutors said on Saturday the children were no longer in a life-threatening condition but remain in hospital.

Regional prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said he has been charged with attempted murder and armed resistance, and is in custody pending further investigation.

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.

She said that the motive remained unclear, but it did not appear to be terrorism-related.

Witnesses said they heard the attacker mention his daughter, his wife and Jesus Christ, according to the prosecutor, who said he wore a cross and carried two Christian images with him at the time of the attack.

He had travelled to Italy and Switzerland before coming to France in October, and French police are coordinating with colleagues in those countries to learn more about his trajectory, said Damien Delaby, director of the regional judicial police.

The child victims were two French two-year-old cousins, a boy and a girl, who were in the playground with their grandmother when the assailant appeared; a British three-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.

He said the doctors were “very confident” about the conditions of the two cousins, who were the most critically injured.

The wounded British girl “is awake, she’s watching television,” he added.

A wounded Dutch girl also has improved and a critically injured adult – who was both knifed and wounded by a shot that police fired as they detained the suspected attacker – is regaining consciousness, he said.

The suspect had applied for asylum in France last year and was refused a few days before the attack, on the grounds that he had already won asylum in Sweden in 2013, the French interior minister said.

Updated: June 16, 2023, 5:36 AM