A 31-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker slashed his way through a French park and into a playground Thursday, trying desperately to butcher every child within reach.
Four toddlers, between the ages of 1 and 3, were cut up along with two adults, ages 70 and 78. Despite their life-threatening wounds, all victims survived, though two remain in critical condition.
The attacker, identified as Abdalmasih H., moved from Syria to Sweden in 2013, where he married a native Swede whom he previously met in Turkey. The couple, who have a 3-year-old together, recently split up, reported the Telegraph.
The attacker, recently fined for simultaneously claiming a student grant and unemployment support, had his asylum request granted in Sweden in April 2023, though made clear he'd prefer to live in France, having submitted an asylum bid to that effect in November 2022.
While French authorities rejected his asylum request on April 26, his approved claim in Sweden enabled the attacker to travel throughout the European Union passport-free, reported Sky News.
Thursday morning, just days after the attacker was notified his asylum request had been rejected, he reportedly stalked his victims in the Paquier park on the shores of Lake Annecy.
A witness, identified as Ferdinand, told the broadcaster BFMTV that after the attacker entered the playground, "he started screaming, he walked towards the strollers and started repeatedly stabbing the little ones."
The attacker, wearing a headscarf, can be seen in footage of the incident circling the playground and brandishing a long knife then tangling with a 24-year-old man with a backpack who attempted to block his way.
The 24-year-old, a man named Henri on a tour of France's cathedrals, was under the mistaken impression the attacker was merely trying to steal a purse until he saw the suspect slash the children, reported the New York Times.
Henri attempted to intervene, but the attacker managed to chase down then slash a woman pushing a stroller. Unlike a number of the male passersby, the woman put up a tremendous fight, protecting the baby in the stroller then grappling with the knife-wielding maniac.
Despite the woman's efforts, the Syrian asylum-seeker managed to land a few stabs into the stroller.
The attacker made a couple more passes through the playground before fleeing with Henri hot on his heels and four badly injured toddlers in his wake.
Two of the young victims were French, one was British, and the other was Dutch, according to lead prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said that all four children underwent surgery and are "under constant medical surveillance" but remain in stable condition, reported NBC News.
The attacker, chased by Henri and others, made his way into an open field where law enforcement intercepted him.
"When he saw that he was surrounded by the police, he went to a couple and he stabbed the elderly person," Ferdinand told BFMTV.
The attacker managed to stab a 78-year-old six times.
Former Liverpool footballer Anthony Le Tallec, who was jogging around Lake Annecy at the time, recalled, "I said to the police, ‘Shoot him, kill him! He’s stabbing everyone,'" reported the Associated Press.
BFMTV indicated that the 78-year-old was caught in the crossfire, catching a bullet from police as they attempted to subdue the attacker. Police managed to put a bullet in the attacker as well, hitting him in the leg.
Henri said, "It is profoundly un-Christian to attack the vulnerable. The entire Christian civilisation on which our country is built is a knightly message to defend widows and orphans," reported the Independent.
French National Assembly Speaker Yael Braun-Pivet said there is "nothing more abominable than to attack children."
French President Emmanuel Macron, who last year pushed for asylum-seekers to be spread to the country's rural areas rather than ejected, stressed that his administration was "working hard to welcome these refugees" and said the "nation is in shock," calling the attack one of "absolute cowardice."
A nauseating video of the attacker's attempted massacre briefly went viral on social media; however, there has been a concerted effort to remove and suppress it.
Various accounts that had posted the video on Twitter — including conservative commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek, Radio Genova, French politician Damien Rieu, and news outfit Visegrád 24 — indicated the platform had deleted the video or forced them to do so.
While the gruesome evidence of yet another European knife attack was being scrubbed online, liberal media outlets appeared to downplay critical details about the attacker's identity.
The Twitter account End Wokeness highlighted a common omission in mainstream media reports on the Syrian asylum-seeker's attack:
France has suffered a number of knife attacks by foreign nationals in recent years, including the October 2020 beheading of French secondary school teacher Samuel Paty in Paris by Abdoullakh Abouyezidovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Islamic refugee of Chechen origin.
The South China Morning Post indicated that this latest attack will prompt greater scrutiny of France's immigration and asylum policy, particularly with mounting pressure from right-wing politicians.
Eric Ciotti, head of the French Republicans party, said, "The investigation will determine what happened, but it seems like the culprit has the same profile that you see often in these attacks."
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