Horrified residents today gathered at the French playground where four preschool children were stabbed by a Syrian refugee, with one local man weeping uncontrollably and screaming ‘why was I not here yesterday’.
Devastated locals congregated in the town of Annecy to lay floral tributes and light candles for the four victims, including a three-year-old British girl, who were stabbed by Abdalmash Hanoun, 31, in a savage attack.
One local resident, Salih Ismajl, was overcome with emotion as he stood in front of the playground today and screamed: ‘Don’t touch the kids! Don’t touch the kids! Why was I not here yesterday!? Why was I not here?’
The attacker had screamed ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ and clinched onto a necklace with a crucifix as he launched his ‘abominable’ rampage in Annecy, a tourist hotspot in southeastern France, on Thursday.
Hanoun first targeted two French cousins named as Ennio and Alba, both two, and then attacked Ettie Turner, a three-year-old British girl on holiday with her parents, and Peter, a 22-month-old Dutch baby, before he was chased by locals and arrested.
Today, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte visited Ettie’s family as well as the relatives of Ennio and Alba at the University Hospital in Grenoble, who have been left traumatised by yesterday’s savage attack.
The victims’ families, witnesses and locals in Annecy have been left reeling from the attack. Standing next to the scene of the brutal attack today, local resident Leo, 21, said: ‘We feel rage, incomprehension. I have the impression with how horrible it was. It affects us all.
One local resident, Salih Ismajl, was overcome with emotion as he stood in front of the playground today and screamed: ‘Don’t touch the kids! Don’t touch the kids! Why was I not here yesterday!? Why was I not here?
Horrific footage shows a Syrian refugee repeatedly stabbing a toddler in its pram in front of his screaming mother in a frenzied attack at a French playground that saw four children knifed
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte arrive at the University Hospital in Grenoble in the French Alps on Friday to visit the victims of the knife attack
‘We must all think about all these children, all these parents, who went through that yesterday.’
Distressing video shows Hanoun, a self-professed Christian, running into the small playground and repeatedly stabbing a toddler in his pram while his screaming mother tried to protect him from the attack.
Further dramatic footage shows the recently divorced Hanoun later being chased across the park by locals and cops before he was shot by a police officer and pinned to the ground.
The attack left the four children with serious stab injuries and medics at Grenoble hospital today said that Ennio and Albia remain in a ‘critical’ condition.
Three-year-old Briton Ettie Turner, who is at the same hospital, is in a ‘stable’ condition as is Peter after being transferred to a specialist medical unit in Geneva.
Macron spent almost two hours with the three young victims at the hospital in Grenoble and their parents, while also speaking to the medics treating them. The French president spoke to Ettie’s parents, a source said.
A source close to the Elysee Palace told MailOnline: ‘The president spoke to the parents of the young English girl. The president’s wife Brigitte Macron was there as well.
‘They spoke with her family and to the families of the French children who were injured. The president was in a room with parents for quite a long time.’
Macron and Brigitte are now travelling an hour-and-a-half north to Annecy from Grenoble in a motorcade to meet with other victims, their families and the people who came to their aid following the attack which is not being treated as terror-related. Investigators are still trying to understand what Hanoun’s motives were for the onslaught.
Macron and his wife Brigitte arrive at a hospital in Grenoble to visit the victims of the attack
Macron shakes hands with hospital staff who are treating the victims of the Annecy stabbing attack on Friday
Horrified residents today gathered at the French playground where four preschool children were stabbed by a Syrian refugee, with one local man weeping uncontrollably and screaming ‘why was I not here yesterday’
One local resident, Salih Ismajl, was overcome with emotion as he stood in front of the playground today and screamed: ‘Don’t touch the kids! Don’t touch the kids! Why was I not here yesterday!? Why was I not here!?’
A woman is overcome with emotion as she places flowers near the scene of the horrific attack in Annecy on Friday
A woman pays her respects in front of messages and floral tributes at the children’s playground on Friday, the day after several children and adults were injured in a knife attack in Annecy
A woman holding a baby lays flowers near the scene of the attack at a lakeside park in Annecy on Friday
Horrified witnesses said mothers ran past them screaming ‘run, run’ in the aftermath of the frenzied attack, which was condemned by Macron as ‘absolute cowardice’.
Witnesses said the knifeman, who was rejected for asylum in France four days before the onslaught, had begun attacking the preschool children while they were playing at a small playground in a scene of utter ‘carnage’. They said he had launched his onslaught on the toddlers because they were ‘easy targets’.
The four children targeted in the attack remain in intensive care today.
Line Bonnet-Mathis, the Annecy Prosecutor who is leading the investigation into the crimes, said: ‘We are dealing with very young victims whose state of health is still extremely fragile. All are in intensive care.’
One of the two pensioners injured in the attack said he was sitting on a bench by the park when Hanoun tried to stab him.
‘I heard a commotion and then I saw someone being followed by people. He had a knife, I saw that he was behind me,’ Youssouf, 78, told Reuters.
‘Suddenly he came in front of me and tried to stab me with his knife and I made a movement with my left arm to avoid the blow. Fortunately, I was injured slightly on the elbow.’
‘Afterwards I was treated by the fire brigade and the paramedics. He was still followed by civilians in front of me, so he ran to the left. Afterwards he attacked other people, I think, and was caught by the police and I heard the shot.’
The victim continued: ‘I felt like there was no reason for him to come and attack me. I stayed calm, I didn’t go after him, to chase him. I stayed quiet, still sitting, but he came like that and he probably wanted to make one more victim, to bother another person.
‘I’m calm but I can imagine the stress of family of the children and their loved ones or other children who saw the incident.’
Hanoun, who was recently divorced, had previously lived for 10 years in Sweden where he was granted refugee status in April, security sources and his ex-wife said.
‘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.
He had applied for asylum in France but was rejected four days before launching his barbaric attack due to him already having refugee status in Sweden.
Horrific video of the attack shows Hanoun carrying a knife and clinching a necklace around his neck, which reportedly had a crucifix on it.
Wielding the knife, the Syrian refugee shouted ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ as he ran towards a screaming mother whose little boy is in a stroller before a local man hits the attacker with his rucksack and chases him away.
But the knifeman jumps into the playground again and runs towards the mother and her toddler. The woman screams and tries to protect her son with her body but Hanoun quickly moves around her and stabs the little boy twice.
The toddler can be seen screaming in pain as the mother and terrified parents scream for help as the attacker runs away again.
But the carnage continues. Hanoun runs back towards the child in the pram and stabs him again in front of his horrified mother before he is chased away by a local man who throws his bag at him.
Further video taken minutes after the stabbing shows the attacker being chased by locals across the park. Parents can be heard in the background screaming for help for their injured children.
Soon afterwards, armed police arrived at the scene and chased the suspect before a shot is heard and the attacker falls to the ground before a desperate struggle with the cops.
Hanoun was subdued and arrested for the attack that left four children and an adult seriously injured. The attacker was slightly injured by police and taken to hospital.
The man who tried to stop Hanoun with his bag has been identified as Henri, a 24-year-old management and philosophy student. He’s been hailed in France as ‘the backpack hero’.
A class of secondary school children witnessed the atrocity. They are now receiving counselling following the traumatic incident.
Mathilde Fuzat, 18, who was in a sports class at the school nearby said: ‘I saw a mother picking up a child from the ground.’
Video shows the the attacker running into the small playground and repeatedly stabbing a toddler in his pram while his screaming mother tries to protect him from the attack.
The attacker, identified as Abdalmash Hanoun, 31, (pictured holding the knife in the playground) launched his ‘abominable’ rampage in a lakeside park in Annecy, an alpine town in southeastern France , at around 9.45am
Witnesses of the horrific knife attack run away from the scene in Annecy on Thursday
Youssouf, 78, (pictured) suffered minor stab wounds as he tried to intercept the suspect as he fled
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly confirmed that a British girl is among the injured. The Annecy prosecutor said another child who was injured was a Dutch national.
Police sources told BFMTV that a two year-old boy and his sister, three, are in a critical condition. A three-year-old British girl and a 22-month-old German boy was also injured in the attack, according to C-News.
Describing the attack, a witness who gave his name as Ferdinand told BFM TV: ‘He jumped (in the playground), started shouting and then went towards the strollers, repeatedly hitting the little ones with a knife.
‘Mothers were crying, everybody was running,’ said George, another witness and owner of a nearby restaurant.
Another witness, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The man was shouting in English, and caused absolute panic when he started attacking the little ones.
‘He wanted to hurt as many people as he could. He caused carnage. The young children were just easy targets.’
Another witness told Le Dauphine: ‘We saw a person attacking children playing games, small ones, obviously that was his target. After people tried to scare him, he walked away and the police intervened.’
Former Liverpool footballer Anthony Le Tallec said he saw a group of people running at him before a mother shouted at him: ‘Run, run, there is someone who is stabbing everyone all along the lake. They are stabbing children, run run!’
He continued: ‘I was so surprised, I continued and then suddenly the guy appeared in front of me, then I saw the police who were ten metres behind him but they hadn’t managed to get him yet. He was so near to me so I got out of the way.’
‘Mothers were crying, everybody was running,’ said George, owner of a nearby restaurant.
An ice cream seller who works in the waterside park said he’d seen the attacker there several days earlier, looking out at the lake ringed by mountains.
‘I had already seen him, he had been sitting on a bench for two to three days’, he told BFMTV.
‘He was looking at the lake like anyone else was looking at the lake,’ the witness said but added the suspect was sitting with ‘a trembling leg and a big black bag’.
France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who travelled to Annecy yesterday, said Hanoun is a Syrian national who had been granted asylum in Sweden ten years ago. At the time of his application, he stated he was a Syrian Christian.
He had entered France legally, Borne said, and was carrying Swedish identity documents and a Swedish driving license. He was not known to security agencies and has no criminal or psychiatric record, Borne said.
The local prosecutor leading the investigation said man’s motives were unknown but did not appear to be terrorism-related. He is under investigation for attempted murder and will undergo a psychiatric examination today.
Hanoun had applied for asylum in France in November last year but police sources said his application was rejected four days ago on the grounds that he already had refugee status in Sweden.
An investigating source said Hanoun is himself a married father of a three-year-old girl, and a devout Christian who carried a prayer book and a cross at the time of his arrest.
It was claimed that the suspect and his ex-wife, who lived in Trollhattan, north of Gothenberg, separated eight months ago and had not been in contact for four months. The pair had reportedly been training to be nurses.
Further video taken minutes after the stabbing shows the attacker being chased by locals across the park on Thursday. Parents can be heard in the background screaming for help for their injured children
Video shows police officers pinning the suspect on the ground after a shot was heard on Thursday
Paramedics treat victims at the scene of the attack in Annecy on Thursday, with one victim in a pram
Police officers work inside a cordoned-off area at a playground following a knife attack in Annecy on Thursday
Police forensics at work outside the headquarters of MP of La France Insoumise left-wing party Loc Prud’homme, vandalized with far-right slogans graffitis in Villenave-d’Ornon, on June 9, 2023
Following the attack, Macron tweeted: ‘Attack of absolute cowardice this morning in a park in Annecy. Children and an adult are between life and death.
‘The Nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with them as well as their families and the emergency services that mobilised.’
Several witnesses described Le Paquier park as an usually tranquil place popular with tourists for its stunning views of Lake Annecy and the mountains.
‘It’s a place where babysitters and parents take young children to play. I often see around 15 toddlers there in the morning, and the atmosphere is fantastic,’ said Yohan, who works at an ice-cream parlour just opposite the park.
France has been shocked by a number of violent incidents over the past few months, including the fatal stabbing last month of a nurse in the northern town of Reims. Also last month, a drunk driver accidentally killed three policemen.
Macron has denounced what he calls a ‘de-civilisation process’ in the country, while opposition lawmakers say his government has been too lax on law and order.
‘Nothing more abominable than to attack children,’ National Assembly speaker Yael Braun-Pivet said on Twitter. Parliament observed a minute of silence to mark the incident.
In recent years, France has suffered a series of traumatic attacks.
In 2012, a Franco-Algerian Islamic extremist named Mohamed Merah killed seven people including three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school during a shooting rampage in the southern city of Toulouse.
Most recently, the beheading of a teacher in broad daylight in 2020 near his school in a Paris suburb by a radicalised Chechen refugee led to shock and grief, as well as a national debate about the influence of radical Islam in deprived areas of the country.
Thursday’s attack is likely to spur greater scrutiny of France’s immigration and asylum policy, with right-wing politicians seizing on the suspected culprit’s identity as a refugee.
‘The investigation will determine what happened, but it seems like the culprit has the same profile that you see often in these attacks,’ the head of the right-wing Republicans party, Eric Ciotti, told reporters at parliament.
‘We need to draw conclusions without being naive, with strength and with a clear mind,’ he said.
Images showed police forensics at work today outside the headquarters of Loc Prud’homme, MP of the left-wing party La France Insoumise, in Villenave-d’Ornon. The building had been vandalised with far-right slogans.
The leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, wrote that she had learned the news with ‘dread and horror’.