FRANCE: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said the health of the preschool children badly wounded in a mass knife attack by a Syrian refugee was “heading in the right direction,” as police questioned the attacker.
Four children — aged between 22 months and three years old — were stabbed on Thursday in a playground in the Alpine town of Annecy, a normally idyllic lakeside spot popular with tourists.
While France was in shock over the blood-curdling attack, there was a deluge of praise on social media for rescue workers and a man hailed as a hero for chasing the attacker out of the area.
Prosecutors insisted they did not see a terror motive, but the rampage intensified tensions in France over immigration, with right-wing politicians seizing on the suspect’s origins.
Macron and his wife Brigitte arrived in the southeastern city of Grenoble, where three of the children are being treated, and are to visit those who have “contributed in helping and supporting them,” the presidency said.
“Everything that I was told is heading in the right direction,” he said in Annecy after visiting the wounded toddlers in hospital, adding that news on their condition was positive.
He added after the visit: “Attacking children is the most barbaric act there is” but also made clear his “pride” over the work of rescuers.
The fourth child, a Dutch citizen, is in a Swiss hospital over the border in Geneva. She is “out of danger,” the Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said.
One of the victims is British and the others French.
Macron was also to meet a man named Henri who is being hailed as a hero for chasing the attacker from the playground.
“Pray for the children, I am doing fine,” he wrote on Instagram as the hashtag #MerciHenri trended on social media.
Regional prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said the detention of the suspect, named as Abdalmasih H., who is under investigation for attempted murder, had been extended after a psychiatric examination.
Recently divorced from a Swedish national and in his early 30s, the suspect had previously lived for 10 years in Sweden where he was granted refugee status in April, security sources and his ex-wife said.
“He called me around four months ago. He was living in a church,” his ex-wife said, adding that he left Sweden because he had been unable to get Swedish nationality.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told broadcaster TF1 that “for reasons not well explained he had also sought asylum in Switzerland, Italy and France.”
It emerged that his application in France was rejected last Sunday as he already enjoyed refugee status in Sweden.