France knife attack suspect charged with attempted murder

France knife attack suspect charged with attempted murder
A man armed with a knife stabbed four preschool children and injured two adults on Friday in the French Alps, the attack sent shock waves through the country.
3 min read
People gather to lay flowers for the victims of a stabbing attack in the French Alps(Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Syrian refugee detained in the stabbing of six people, including four young children, in the French Alpine town of Annecy has been charged with "attempted murder", a prosecutor said Saturday.

The suspect, named as Abdalmasih H, was taken into custody after going on a stabbing rampage on Thursday at a playground in the Alpine town of Annecy, a normally idyllic lakeside spot popular with tourists.

The chilling attack stunned France, which has suffered a series of attacks in the past decade, most of them by Islamic extremists.

The motivation of the playground attack remains unclear.

Abdalmasih H. "did not wish to speak" during his 48 hours in police custody nor before the magistrates leading the investigation, public prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis told a press conference.

After two psychiatric evaluations, Abdalmasih H. was deemed "compatible with police custody", she said, adding that doctors had determined he did not suffer from delusions.

However, she added that it was too early to diagnose or rule out other psychological pathologies at this stage.

Witnesses described the assailant running around the park on the banks of Lake Annecy wearing a bandana and sunglasses, apparently attacking people at random.

The victims of the attack were no longer in a life-threatening condition, Bonnet-Mathis said.

The children, aged between 22 months and three years, were initially hospitalised in a serious condition, while one adult was also seriously wounded and another lightly hurt.


On Friday, sources close to the investigation reported he was obstructing justice and refusing to talk, with one saying he had at one point just "rolled around on the ground".

Investigations are underway to "understand his motivations," said police official Damien Delaby, adding that more than a hundred investigators were on the case.

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 told AFP.

"He called me around four months ago. He was living in a church," his ex-wife said, adding that he left the country 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.

The attack left the normally peaceful town of Annecy in shock, and hundreds of people have laid flowers at the site of the attack.

On Sunday morning, residents will gather at the lake in support of the victims while the city's mayor will pay homage to those who "acted with courage and professionalism" and try to intervene.

These include two municipal agents who tried to stop the attacker with a shovel, a young man renting out pedal boats and a maths teacher who both tried to step in, a childminder who rushed to rescue two injured children, and a tourist who chased the attacker.