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09 June 2023

British girl injured in Annecy stabbing was on holiday at time of attack

09 June 2023

A British girl who was one of four children stabbed in a knife attack in the French Alps was on holiday in the area.

The knifeman attacked the group of children – aged between 22 months and three years – and two adults at a lakeside park in Annecy on Thursday.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect, a 31-year-old Syrian man, had tried to claim asylum in France but it was refused on Sunday because he had previously been granted asylum in Sweden 10 years ago.

The British girl is three years old and was taken to hospital in Grenoble, a city around an hour-and-a-half from Annecy by car.

French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to the Alps on Friday to meet families and witnesses who have been left traumatised by the attack, his office said.

Mr Macron and his wife Brigitte flew to Grenoble before heading to Annecy.

Two of the children remain in a critical condition on Friday morning, government spokesman Olivier Veran said, but reports suggest the British girl is stable.

Tearful well-wishers have visited the playground where the children were stabbed.

Flowers and messages were laid at the scene, with messages including “Love Annecy”, and “Children I don’t know you but in this hour you are fighting”.

The Swedish Migration Agency has confirmed the suspect was granted permanent residency in 2013 and although the agency did not identify him, it said he subsequently sought Swedish citizenship in 2017 and 2018, both denied, and applied again in August last year.

Mr Darmanin said the suspect entered France legally, adding: “For some reasons we don’t really understand, he applied for asylum in Switzerland, in Italy and in France, which he didn’t need to do as he already had asylum in Sweden for the past 10 years.”

Local prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said one of the adults was seriously injured by both a knife wound from the attacker and a bullet wound from police as officers shot at the knifeman while trying to detain him.

The Telegraph reported the gunshot victim is a 78-year-old man who is now in a life-threatening condition in hospital after also being stabbed six times.

Witnesses said the knifeman shouted “in the name of Jesus Christ” as he launched the attack, including stabbing a child in a pushchair repeatedly as bystanders screamed for help.

Ms Bonnet-Mathis told a press conference on Thursday afternoon the attacker’s motives were unclear, but they did not appear to be related to terrorism.

Footage of the attack shared on the internet shows a man in dark glasses and with a blue scarf covering his head brandishing a blade as people screamed for help.

In another video, the man appears to shout “in the name of Jesus Christ” while waving the knife in the air, with people nearby screaming for police.

He then slashed at a man carrying a rucksack who attempted to approach him.

The video then shows a woman frantically pushing a stroller inside the play area of the park as the attacker approached her while she screamed for help.

She attempted to fend off the attacker before he leaned forward and stabbed down into the pushchair.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the suspect had no criminal or psychiatric record and appeared to have acted alone.

“We are talking here about infants, very young infants who have been very seriously injured,” she told a press conference, according to a translation.

“We are absolutely shaken by all this and we are standing firm by the people of Annecy.”

Speaking at a press conference at the White House on Thursday evening alongside US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the attack as “unfathomable”.

He said: “All our thoughts are with those who were affected in this unfathomable attack, including a British child, and their families.

“I have been in touch with President Macron. We stand ready to offer any assistance that we can.”

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