Days before launching the world’s oldest and highest-profile animation festival, the French city of Annecy is in shock after a man wielding a knife attacked a group of schoolchildren and adults in a local park.
According to authorities from the Haute-Savoie prefecture, six people were injured in the attack, four of them preschool-age children. Two of the children and one adult are said to be in a serious condition, with the others “slightly hurt.” All six were taken to the hospital.
The attack took place in Le Pâquier d’Annecy, a park on the north side of the lake. Anyone who has attended the Annecy festival in the past has likely walked its paths numerous times commuting to and from the Bonlieu and the Impérial Palace.
Local reports have indicated that the suspected attacker is a 31-year-old Syrian refugee who originally applied for asylum in France and was granted it in Sweden in April. Police have not yet provided any motive for the attack.
Starting this weekend, the Annecy Festival will host more than 14,000 guests, a new record for the event.
Festival organizers were understandably stunned after learning of the attack, and have since released a brief statement:
The Annecy International Animation Film Festival management and team were shocked to learn about the tragic events that took place on Le Pâquier this morning. Our thoughts immediately go to the victims and their families.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted (translated by Google):
Attack of absolute cowardice this morning in a park in Annecy. Children and an adult are between life and death. The Nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with them as well as their families and the emergency services mobilized.
Annecy mayor François Astorg said he was appalled by the attack, and that a news conference will be held later in the day.
Update from the afternoon new conference of French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne:
According to Bourne, the child victims were as young as 22 months and three years old and all four are in a “severe state.” Witnesses to the attack who were not physically injured are in shock and receiving specialist medical care.
She confirmed that the suspect is in custody and that he is a Syrian national who had refugee status in Sweden. He has no criminal or psychiatric record. There is still no indication of motive, but police have said there is no evidence of a link to terrorism.
This is a developing story and details are subject to change as local authorities release more information. We will update as new information becomes available.
Photo at top: Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Guilhem Vellut from Annecy, France