(LifeSiteNews) –– A Syrian refugee has stabbed four children and five adults in a spontaneous knife attack in France.
Captured on video, the man clearly displays a knife before running into a public children’s playground. Challenged by a man, he succeeds in stabbing the children amidst screams of terror.
The victims include a 22-month-old child, two children aged 2 and one 3-year-old. Two of the children were not French, with one reported as English and another as Dutch. The two-year-olds are reportedly cousins.
According to France 24, Annecy Prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis, who is opening an investigation into what she describes as attempted murder, said, “As things stand, there is no evidence to suggest that there was any terrorist motivation.”
The latest reports indicate that all six wounded, including four children, are in a stable condition in hospital.
Details of the attack
The attack took place at 9:45 a.m. local time, and was carried out by a lone Syrian man.
According to French outlet Dauphiné Libéré, “The identity mentioned on his Syrian identity card is that of Abdalmasih H., born on October 1, 1991 in Syria.”
The 31-year-old attacker is reported to have arrived in Sweden eleven years ago, having his application for asylum granted on arrival.
A former associate of the suspect, 50-year-old Syrian refugee Aeteadal K, told Le Dauphine that he last had contact with the suspect in Sweden, but that the suspect had left “for France seven months ago.”
It is also reported that the suspect had made a second application for asylum in France, but that this had been denied on the grounds that his first had already been accepted in Sweden.
According to Le Parisien, the suspect had been “living in a church,” and had left behind a wife and three-year-old child in Sweden. She is also of Middle Eastern origin, and met the attacker five years ago in Turkey.
‘In the name of Jesus Christ’
In a 1-minute and 19-second long video, the attacker can twice be heard invoking the name of Christ.
The video begins with the attacker, bearded and wearing a keffiyeh, running out of the playground brandishing a knife. Screams for help can be heard, suggesting he has already attacked once.
He appears to be aware that he is being filmed, and holds out from his neck what has been reported to be a cross. He then says, in a mixture of French and English, “Au [or “en”] name of Jesus Christ,” before correcting himself to say plainly in English, “In the name of Jesus Christ.”
He then goes back into the playground and is seen stabbing a child on camera, before attacking others.
On this basis, and following unconfirmed reports that he was also carrying a “Christian prayer book,” the suspect has been severally described as a Christian.
In a now-deleted BFMTV interview with his Swedish wife, who also described him as a “Christian,” the suspect was said to be a good father to their three-year-old daughter. He was a student, she said, and was training to be a nurse. Seeming surprised at the contact from a French journalist, she revealed that she had not heard from him for months.
According to her, the suspect came to France to become a French citizen, as he did not like being Swedish.
The heroic Catholic bystander
In the video, another man, identified as 24-year-old Catholic pilgrim Henri d’Anselme, is clearly seen attempting to stop the attacker. Despite being attacked himself, he persists in using his backpack to try to disarm and block the knifeman. D’Anselme is pictured below, heroically confronting the knifeman alone.
D’Anselme is touring the cathedrals of France on foot, in what he describes as “great pilgrimage.” It his devotion to God and to the Catholic faith which led him to Annecy on this day. He repeatedly risked his own life to stop the attacker, and pursued him fleeing the scene.
A homeless presence
One witness who was interviewed by Dauphine Libere, works on lake Annecy near the site of the attacks. He described seeing the suspect daily in the park.
This guy has been coming to sit on a bench every day for two months, dressed in black, black backpack, dark glasses, bearded […]
He remained all day seated on the bench. He really stayed from morning till night, rain or shine. It was his home, he had taken up residence there.
Sometimes he went swimming in the morning […] He looked like a homeless person, you don’t spend your whole day on a bench like that.
The attacker does indeed seem to be homeless. He is estranged from his own homeland, has rejected another in Sweden, and committed a horrendous assault in a second place he has failed to find a home.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Friday June 9, 2023.