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Man accused of knife attack on four children in Annecy held on attempted murder charges

EUR-GEN FRANCIA-ATAQUE (AP)
EUR-GEN FRANCIA-ATAQUE (AP)

The man suspected of stabbing four children in a playground in the French Alps has been held on charges of attempted murder.

French judges handed the preliminary charges to the 31-year-old Syrian asylum seeker, who has not been named, on Saturday. He is due to appear in court this afternoon.

The stabbings left four children – including a three-year-old British child, named locally as Ettie – fighting for their lives. Two adults were also injured in the attack which unfolded on Thursday morning in the picturesque town of Annecy.

Speaking on Saturday, lead prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said witnesses had heard the suspect, who was wearing a cross around his neck, say “in the name of Jesus Christ” as the attack took place.

She added that the victims are no longer in life-threatening condition.

She also revealed that the suspect was found not to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he was examined in custody.

She said: “A psychiatric doctor also examined him and he pronounced him to be able to appear before the court.

“It is premature to make any kind of psychiatric conclusion as to the state of the assailant so far.”

Floral tributes were left at the playground where the stabbing unfolded (AP)
Floral tributes were left at the playground where the stabbing unfolded (AP)

In footage which went viral, a man – wearing a blue-chequered headscarf and sunglasses – was allegedly seen attacking small children in the playground with a four-inch blade.

The assailant later jumps over a low wall and repeatedly lunges at a child in a stroller, pushing aside a woman who tries to fend him off.

One bystander is later seen trying to stop him as other parents flee with their children.

Within minutes, the attacker was pursued by police. He then attacked an elderly man in a different part of the park. Police fired shots and detained the attacker, who was unharmed.

Tributes left near the scene at a lakeside park in Annecy, France, following a knife attack (PA)
Tributes left near the scene at a lakeside park in Annecy, France, following a knife attack (PA)

Speaking after his arrest, French prime minister Elisabeth Borne said the suspect was a Syrian national who was granted asylum in Sweden 10 years ago.

She confirmed that he had entered France legally and was carrying Swedish identity documents plus a Swedish driving license.

He had asked for asylum in France, which had not been processed because he already had refugee status in Sweden, she said.

Speaking on Thursday, Annecy public prosecutor Ms Bonnet-Mathis said there was “no evidence” of a terrorist motive.

This emerged after police sources told the French Le Monde newspaper the man had declared himself to be a Syrian Christian in his French asylum application.

The publication also reported that he had been wearing a Christian cross on a chain around his neck when arrested.

News of the attack was quickly condemned by political leaders across the planet.

Rishi Sunak described the stabbing attack as “unfathomable”, adding that his thoughts were with all those affected.

“All our thoughts are with those affected by this unfathomable attack – including a British child,” Mr Sunak said, during a press conference alongside Joe Biden at the White House.