French President Macron meets victims of Annecy park stabbing, hails backpack hero

Web Desk
June 09, 2023

People laid flowers, showed sympathy towards victims when a Syrian refugee started stabbing children in France

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting with rescue forces at the Haute-Savoie prefecture on June 9, 2023. — AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron met the stabbing victims at a Grenoble hospital that injured four children, including two adults, Thursday in a lakeside park in Annecy.

The president also met with the person Friday — backpack hero — who intervened when the attack occurred.

Macron noted that the two children are stable, and doctors are optimistic about their recovery.

People laid flowers and showed sympathy toward the victims when a 31-year-old Syrian refugee started mass stabbing.

Salih Ismajl reacts as he pays respect in front of messages and floral tributes at the children's playground in Annecy, in the French Alps, France, June 9, 2023. — Reuters

Among the wounded were a British national and a Dutch national.

A video captured by an onlooker showed the assailant jumping a low wall into a children's playground and repeatedly lunging at a child in a stroller, pushing aside a woman who tried to fend him off.

France hailed the bravery of a 24-year-old Catholic — identified as Henri — who faced the attacker and used his backpack as a shield as he sought to prevent the attack.

President Emmanuel Macron (L) talks with Henri (R), the 24-year-old 'backpack hero', who suffered minor stab wounds. — AFP

Henri told CNews: "All I know is I was not there by chance. It was unthinkable to do nothing ... I followed my instincts and did what I could to protect the weak."


Church authorities said a Mass will be held in Annecy Cathedral in tribute to the victims and their families later on Friday.

Annecy Prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said she was “extending the suspect's custody for further interrogation.”

She has said: "There was no indication that terrorism was the motivation and that the suspect was under investigation for attempted murder."

Police have arrested a Syrian national who was granted asylum in Sweden 10 years ago, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Friday.

President Emmanuel Macron (centre), flanked by his wife Brigitte Macron (left), is welcomed by Grenoble CHU director Monique Sorrentino as he arrives to visit the victims of a knife attack at the University Hospital (CHU) in Grenoble. — AFP

She said: "He had entered France legally and was carrying Swedish identity documents and a Swedish driving licence. Sweden and France are both members of the Schengen Area, the world's largest passport-free zone which allows the unrestricted movement of people between 26 European countries."

The attack has laid bare the tensions between Europe's free movement rights and the pressure governments in countries like France and Italy are coming under from voters to toughen immigration laws as societies shift rightwards politically.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said late Thursday the suspect had no police record in France, was homeless and had been questioned by police Sunday as he was washing in the Annecy Lake.

The minister said it was "a troubling coincidence" that the assailant's demand for asylum in France had been rejected just four days before the attack.

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