The three-year-old British girl who was stabbed by the French playground knifeman on Thursday is out of surgery and watching television, France’s president Emmanuel Macron has confirmed.
During a meeting with rescue workers in Annecy, Macron said of young Ettie Turner: ‘She is watching TV and [the attack] is just a bad memory already. ‘Doctors are optimistic,’ he added, though he said caution was still required.
Meanwhile, the ‘backpack hero’ who chased away Abdelmasih Hanoun, 31, has said his Catholic faith gave him the strength to fight the attacker.
Henri d’Ansleme, 24, told journalists he was undertaking a walking tour of France’s cathedrals when he came across a playground in Annecy and saw the man attack children in a stroller as their mother desperately tried to shield them.
Video footage shows him trying to block the assailant with one of his two backpacks, pursuing the man into the playground and throwing one of his bags at the attacker.
The ‘backpack hero’ who chased away a Syrian refugee who stabbed four children in France has said his Catholic faith gave him the strength to fight the attacker. Video footage (pictured) shows the man trying to block the assailant with one of his two backpacks, pursuing the man into the playground and throwing one of his bags at the attacker
Dubbed ‘the backpack hero’ (le héros au sac a dos) by French media, the 24-year-old management and philosophy student – who only gave his name as Henri – suggested it was God’s will he was there to intervene. Henri is seen second right shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron in Annecy, France on Friday
Dubbed ‘the backpack hero’ (le héros au sac a dos) by media, the management and philosophy student suggested it was God’s will he was there to intervene.
‘All I know is that I was not there by chance. On my journey to the cathedrals I crossed paths with this man and I have acted instinctively. It was unthinkable to do nothing,’ the philosophy and management student told CNEWS.
Henri’s comments came as it emerged the knifeman responsible for the savage attack on the young children was seen lurking around the playground where it happened ‘every day for two months beforehand’.
The disturbing details about the build-up to Thursday’s atrocity came as self-styled Syrian-Christian Hanoun was remanded in custody while facing multiple attempted murder charges.
Meanwhile, Macron visited the alpine town on Friday and shook hands with Henri to thank him for his bravery.
The devout Catholic said he had felt a strong force inside him pushing him to act.
‘I let myself be guided by providence and the Virgin Mary. I said my adieu. They would decide what would happen,’ he said.
Henri said other young people had also pursued the attacker. ‘We tried to scare him and make clear he could not do what he wanted,’ he said.
Henri shied away from the ‘hero’ label. He said he ‘tried to act as all French people should act, or would act.’
‘In that moment, you unplug your brain and react a bit like an animal by instinct,’ he told broadcaster BFMTV. ‘It was impossible for me to witness that without reacting.’
‘I am far from alone in having reacted. Many other people around started, like me, to run after him to try to scare him, push him away. And other people immediately went over to the children to take care of the injured.’
‘I remember there was also a municipal worker who arrived from the right with a large plastic shovel to try to hit him,’ Henri said.
Henri’s father François said that in phone conversation after the attack, his son ‘told me that the Syrian was incoherent, saying lots of strange things in different languages, invoking his father, his mother, all the Gods.’
‘In short, he was possessed by who knows what, but possessed by folly, that’s certain,’ the father told the Associated Press.
Henri’s father said he believed that his son’s dogged pursuit helped dissuade the attacker from stabbing more victims before police wrestled him to the ground.
‘He took a lot of risks when he wasn’t armed, with just his backpacks,’ the father said.
‘He didn’t stop running after him for many minutes, to stop him from coming back and massacring the kids even more. I think he prevented carnage by scaring him off. Really very courageous.’
François asked that their last name not be published, expressing concerns about their family being thrust suddenly and inadvertently into the public eye at a time of shock and outrage in France provoked by the viciousness of Thursday’s attack and the helplessness of its young victims.
He said he did show the disturbing video of the attack to his other children and his wife, and added that he and his wife had trouble sleeping even after learning that Henri was safe. ‘We thanked providence and his guardian angels,’ he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited the alpine town on Friday and shook hands with Henri (pictured listening to Macron’s speech today) to thank him for his bravery
Henri (right) said other young people had also pursued the attacker. ‘We tried to scare him and make clear he could not do what he wanted,’ he said
Asked about the suggestion that attacker may have been Christian, Henri said it made no sense.
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.
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.
Henri said: ‘It is profoundly unchristian to attack the vulnerable. The entire Christian civilisation on which our country is built is a knightly message to defend widows and orphans. I think that, on the contrary, something very bad inhabited him.’
The student said he had to revisit the gruesome details of the attack during a three-hour statement to police on Thursday. ‘I now have all these horrible images in my head. I need to try and turn that into something positive,’ he said.
He would continue his months-long walking tour and hoped to show social media followers ‘how the beauty of the cathedrals can nourish us and help us do the right thing’. ‘Because of these events, I will be able to reach more people. I thank heaven,’ he told BFM television.
It emerged today that despite being a failed asylum seeker who faced deportation, Hanoun – the assailant – was left to sleep rough in the Alpine city of Annecy.
‘He’d rest in a cardboard box at night, go swimming in Lake Annecy first thing in the morning, and then spent the day in the park,’ said an investigating source.
‘Parents and other people around the playground were used to seeing him sitting on a bench. He was often muttering or singing to himself, and became aggressive if anyone else tried to sit on the bench.’
Another witness who works on a lake pontoon told the Dauphiné Libéré news outlet that he saw Hanoun ‘every day for the two months preceding the attack.
‘He was dressed in black – black backpack, dark glasses, bearded, and he wore a headdress to protect him from the sun – it could be a t-shirt, this wasn’t a religious sign,’ the source said.
Earlier today, horrified residents 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?
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
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?’
Today, French President 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.
‘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. Annecy Prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said in a tweet she was extending the suspect’s custody for further interrogation.
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
Salih Ismajl cries in front of messages and floral tributes at the children’s playground in Annecy the day after several children and two adults were stabbed
Salih Ismajl cries in front of messages and floral tributes at the children’s playground in Annecy the day after several children and two adults were stabbed
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
Pictured: Flowers, candles and balloons laid in the ‘Jardins de l’Europe’ parc in Annecy, French Alps, for the victims of a stabbing attack 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’.
What do we know so far about the attacker?
A Syrian refugee, identified as Abdalmash Hanoun, 31, screamed ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ as he repeatedly stabbed children in a frenzied attack in Annecy, France, on Thursday.
Investigators are scrambling to understand who Hanoun is and what his motives are for the attack.
Here, MailOnline uncovers what we know so far about the attacker.
RECENTLY DIVORCED AND FATHER
Abdalmash Hanoun, originally from the Syrian town of Al-Hassake, is recently divorced from his 26-year-old wife who he shares a three-year-old daughter with.
The couple, who had lived in Trollhattan in Sweden together, separated eight months ago and had not been in contact for four months.
His ex-wife, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ‘He called me around four months ago. He was living in a church.’ She added he had been unable to get Swedish nationality.
An investigating source said Hanoun is a devout Christian.
The source said Hanoun was a ‘declared and devout Christian’ who carried a prayer book and a cross at the time of his arrest.
ASYLYUM GRANTED IN SWEDEN
Hanoun had been living in Sweden for ten years after being granted asylum, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.
At the time of his application, he stated he was a Syrian Christian.
During those ten years in Sweden, the knifeman had lived an ‘orderly life’, according to documents seen by Aftonbladet.
He studied both Swedish and English at a secondary school there and was training with his wife to become a nurse.
But he was convicted for illegally claiming benefits in Sweden. He was handed a suspended sentenced and a fine.
Hanoun had applied for Swedish citizenship four years after receiving a permanent residence permit in Sweden but he was rejected.
In summer last year, his third attempt at getting Swedish citizenship was rejected so he decided to travel to France where he applied for asylum.
APPLICATION FOR ASYLUM IN FRANCE
Hanoun had applied for asylum in France in November last year but was rejected four days before launching his barbaric attack due to him already having refugee status in Sweden.
The attacker had been able to travel to France legally due to his refugee status in Sweden. A refugee can move freely in the EU.
France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said he was carrying Swedish identity documents and a Swedish driving license at the time of his arrest.
Borne said the suspect was ‘not known by any intelligence service’ and did not have ‘any history of psychiatric problems’.
The four children targeted in the attack remain in intensive care today.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Friday that all four children underwent surgery for their life-threatening knife wounds and ‘are under constant medical surveillance.’ ‘Their situation is stable,’ she said.
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.
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
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.
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’.