Emmanuel Macron, the French President, has expressed optimism about the condition of child victims of a knife attack that took place in Annecy on Thursday. During his visit to the town, he mentioned that a young British girl had awoken after surgery, and a Dutch toddler was also said to be recovering. The suspect, a 31-year-old Syrian man with refugee status in Sweden, is currently in custody and is scheduled for a psychiatric assessment. He is believed to have been living homeless in Annecy after having an asylum claim rejected. No terrorist motive is suspected.
Four children, aged between 22 and 36 months, and two pensioners were injured during the incident. In a speech in the Alpine town, Macron stated that attacking children was “the most barbaric act”. He visited a local hospital, where he met a man who was stabbed by the assailant during the attack. He also met Henri, the so-called “backpack hero” who used his backpack to stop the attacker.
Macron said the young British girl who was attacked and received surgery had “woken up”.
“She is watching TV and [the attack] is just a bad memory already,” he said, according to the AFP news agency.
“Doctors are optimistic,” the president said, adding that caution was still required.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said he was “relieved” to hear that the Dutch girl who fell victim to the attack “is out of danger”.
The playground where the attack took place, by the lake in Annecy, was full on Friday. But there was not a child in sight – the glare of television cameras kept parents away.
Their place was taken by a crowd of journalists, as well as local people coming to leave tributes along the playground wall: white flowers for the innocence of the victims – messages that hint at the outrage in France.
“Innocence attacked!” one read.
“We must not fear the evil that sometimes resides in people,” said another.
Matic William, a 40-year-old shopkeeper from the area, said he often brought his three-year-old son to the playground.
“It feels like we’re in another world,” he told the BBC. “You can feel this very heavy atmosphere, this tension.”
Prosecutors are trying to work out the motive for the attack. They have said that the suspect – a Syrian man with refugee status in Sweden – has no recorded history of psychiatric illness, but there are growing questions about his current mental state. He is thought to have been living as a homeless person in Annecy since last autumn, after leaving his ex-wife and three-year-old son in Sweden.
France’s interior minister says his claim for asylum in France was rejected a few days ago.
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