Annecy attack: British girl, 3, injured in stabbing at French playground was on holiday

The Foreign Secretary said British officials were heading to the area to support the child’s family

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

A group of children aged between 22 months and three years, and two adults, were attacked by a knife-wielding man at a lakeside park in Annecy on Thursday (8 June).

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

A British girl was one of four children stabbed in a knife attack in the French Alps on Thursday (Photo:  Peter Byrne/PA Wire)A British girl was one of four children stabbed in a knife attack in the French Alps on Thursday (Photo:  Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
A British girl was one of four children stabbed in a knife attack in the French Alps on Thursday (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

The British girl, aged three years, was taken to hospital in Grenoble, a city around an hour-and-a-half from Annecy by car, and her condition is now understood to be stable.

Sadly, two of the children who were injured remain in a critical condition on Friday morning, according to government spokesman Olivier Veran.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said UK officials were travelling to the area “to make themselves available to support the family”.

The public prosecutor of Annecy confirmed the suspect’s custody had been extended on Friday morning (9 June). Translated to English, a tweet said: “Stab attack in Annecy. The defendant’s custody is extended. No other communication planned for this day in the state.”

What happened?

In a tweet, France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin confirmed the incident took place in Annecy in the south-east of the country on Thursday morning (8 June) - when a man was seen attacking people with a knife in a playground.

(Graphic: Mark Hall)(Graphic: Mark Hall)
(Graphic: Mark Hall)

A local prosecutor, Line Bonnet-Mathis, said a total of four children and two adults were injured. She added the children - aged between 22 months and three years - were in a “very severe state” and in intensive care.

On Friday morning, Mr Veran said two of the children remain in a critical condition, while the British girl is said to be stable.

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.

The suspect - a 31-year-old Syrian asylum seeker with refugee status in Sweden - was arrested close to the scene. Officials say his motives remain unclear but do not appear to be related to terrorism.

The Swedish Migration Agency 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 31-year-old 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.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the nation had been “shocked” by the attack - which he described as “cowardly”.

What about the British victim?

Speaking at a news conference in France, James Cleverly said: “Our thoughts are with the victims and the families, and we stand ready to support the French authorities in whichever way we can”.

“One of the people, one of the children injured, was a British national. We have already deployed British consular officials who are travelling to the area to make themselves available to support the family.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said on Thursday afternoon she was also in touch with her French counterpart.

What did witnesses see?

Witnesses to the attack said some of the children looked very young, with one man telling broadcaster BFMTV that he saw first aiders working on “little bodies, three or four years old, perhaps”.

Those who saw the attack 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 that the attacker’s motives were unclear, but did not appear to be related to terrorism.

Footage of the attack shared online shows a man in dark glasses and with a blue scarf covering his head brandishing a blade as people screamed for help, while in another video the suspect appears to shout “in the name of Jesus Christ” while waving the knife in the air. He then slashed at a man carrying a rucksack who attempted to approach him.

The video then shows a woman frantically pushing a pram inside the play area of the park as the attacker approached her. She attempted to fend him off before he leaned forward and stabbed down into the pushchair.

Local politician Antoine Armand described the attack as “abominable” and said in a tweet that children were attacjed in a playground near a primary school. He wrote: “We still know very little but all my support for the victims, relatives, law enforcement and rescue.”

Speaking to BFMTV from the National Assembly building in Paris, he added that the victims include “very young” children who were “savagely attacked”.

In Paris, politicians interrupted a debate to hold a moment of silence for the victims. The assembly president, Yael Braun-Pivet, said: “There are some very young children who are in critical condition and I invite you to respect a minute of silence for them, for their families, and so that, we hope, the consequences of this very grave attack do not lead to the nation grieving.”

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the town of Annecy on Friday 9 June. He told reporters that he had heard "positive" news about the young victims since the attack took place. In a speec, he described the stabbings as "the most barbaric act".

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

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.”