French President Emmanuel Macron will today visit the British family whose three-year-old girl was among four children who were stabbed by a Syrian refugee at a playground in France.
Macron and his wife Brigitte are travelling to the town of Annecy, a tourist hotspot in southeastern France, to be at the side of the victims and their families who have been left traumatised by yesterday’s savage attack.
The attacker, identified as Abdalmash H, 31, screamed ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ and clinched onto a necklace with a crucifix on it as he launched his ‘abominable’ rampage.
Distressing video shows the 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 Abdalmash H later being chased across the park by locals and cops before he was pinned to the ground.
Four children aged between 22 months and three – including a three-year-old British girl – as well as two adults were seriously injured in the frenzied attack. Two of the young victims remain in critical condition on Friday after undergoing surgery.
Macron and Brigitte travelling to Annecy today to meet with the 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 Abdalmash H’s motives were for the onslaught.
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
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
French President Emmanuel Macron will today visit the British family whose three-year-old girl was among four children who were stabbed by a Syrian refugee at a playground in France
Shocked locals have congregated in the park to lay floral tributes and light candles as they paid their respects to the victims of the attack.
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’.
What do we know so far about the attacker?
A Syrian refugee, identified as Abdalmash H, 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 Abdalmash 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 H, 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 Abdalmash H is a devout Christian.
The source said Abdalmasih H. was a ‘declared and devout Christian’ who carried a prayer book and a cross at the time of his arrest.
ASYLYUM GRANTED IN SWEDEN
Abdalmash 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.
Abdalmash H 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
Abdalmash H 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’.
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’.
Two pensioners were also injured in the attack, one of whom – a 78-year-old man – is in a life-threatening condition in hospital after being stabbed six times, including at least once in the neck by the attacker and then accidentally being shot by police in the chaos.
Abdalmash H, 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 Abdalmash H 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 Abdalmash 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. Abdalmash H 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.
Abdalmash H 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 Abdalmash H with his bag has been identified as Henri, a 24-year-old management and philsophy 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.’
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.’
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 H, 32, (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
A woman holding a baby lays flowers near the scene of the attack at a lakeside park in Annecy on Friday
Youssouf, 78, (pictured) suffered minor stab wounds as he tried to intercept the suspect as he fled
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 Abdalmash H 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.
Abdalmash H 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 Abdalmash H 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
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.
The leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, wrote that she had learned the news with ‘dread and horror’.