Children who were stabbed in France are no longer in mortal danger as the suspect is charged

PARIS (AP) — Four young children stabbed at a playground in the French Alps are no longer in a life-threatening condition but remain hospitalized, the regional prosecutor said on Saturday, as the alleged attacker was charged with attempted murder.

Victims came from several countries, and the impact of Thursday’s unusually savage and incomprehensible attack reverberated across France and beyond. The stabbed children, aged 22 months to 3 years, were in hospitals in France and Switzerland.

The suspect, a 31-year-old Syrian refugee with permanent residence in Sweden, has a 3-year-old daughter living in Sweden, regional prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis told reporters on Saturday. Witnesses told investigators that the suspect mentioned his daughter, his wife and Jesus Christ during the attack on Thursday targeting a playground in the lakeside city of Annecy.

Police arrested the suspect in Annecy city park after passers-by – including a Catholic pilgrim who repeatedly hit the attacker with his backpack – sought to deter him.

The alleged assailant, whose name has not been released, was presented to investigating judges in Annecy on Saturday and charged with attempted murder and armed resistance, Bonnet-Mathis said. He is in custody pending further investigation.

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

The alleged attacker wore a cross and carried two Christian images with him at the time of the attack, the prosecutor said. He also had 480 euros in cash and a Swedish driving license on him, and was sleeping in the common areas of a building in Annecy.

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

The child victims were two French cousins ​​aged 2, a boy and a girl, who were in the playground with their grandmother when the attacker appeared; a 3-year-old British 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” in the condition of the two cousins, who were the most seriously injured.

The injured British girl “is awake, she is watching television,” Macron added. The Dutch woman has also improved and a seriously injured adult – who was both stabbed and injured by a gunshot that police fired while arresting the alleged attacker – is regaining consciousness, Macron said.

The seriously injured adult, a Portuguese man, was injured while trying to stop the attacker from fleeing from the police. The Portuguese Foreign Ministry said he was “now out of danger”.

In a statement on Saturday, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa thanked the man, Manuel Ponte, for his bravery.

The second injured adult was discharged from hospital with his left elbow bandaged.

The pilgrim nicknamed “the hero with a backpack”, a 24-year-old Frenchman named Henri, takes a walking and hitchhiking tour of the cathedrals of France. He told French broadcaster BFMTV he had left for another abbey when the horror unfolded before him. The assailant punched him, but Henri held his ground and used a heavy backpack he was carrying to swing towards the assailant.

Henry’s father told The Associated Press that his son “told me the Syrian was incoherent, saying all kinds of weird things in different languages, calling on his father, his mother, all the gods.”

The suspect’s profile has fueled fresh criticism from far-right and conservative politicians over France’s migration policies. But authorities noted that the suspect had entered France legally, as he had permanent resident status in Sweden. Both Sweden and France are members of the EU and Europe’s borderless travel zone.

He applied for Swedish citizenship in 2017 and 2018 but was refused, according to the Swedish Migration Agency. Swedish broadcaster TV4, citing the citizenship denial document, reported that he was denied because he had served in the Syrian army.

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

Annecy is planning a public rally at the site of the attack on Sunday in support of the victims.


Vaux-Montagny reported from Lyon, France. Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Helena Alves in Lisbon, Portugal contributed.

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