A SYRIAN-CHRISTIAN refugee has been arrested for the stabbing of four children in a playground in the French Alps on Thursday morning.
The suspect, later identified by prosecutors as Abdelmasih Hanoun, aged 31, reportedly shouted “In the name of Jesus Christ” during the attack. He was detained but police, but a 78-year-old grandfather was injured by police gunfire.
Four children, aged between 22 months and three years old, were hospitalised with critical injuries after Hanoun allegedly attacked them in a playground in the French resort. A three-year-old British girl on holiday with her family was among them. Another adult was also injured.
The French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said that the suspect had no criminal or psychiatric record. He had refugee status in Sweden and had recently arrived in France, leaving behind his ex-wife and three-year-old daughter.
Mr Hanoun’s asylum application had reportedly been rejected by the French authorities five days before the attack. In documents supporting his claim, he described himself as a Syrian Christian. Police have said that a cross and a Christian prayer book had been found on him after his arrest.
“The whole country is shocked,” Ms Borne said.
At about 9.45 a.m. on Thursday morning, the suspect took a knife and began an indiscriminate attack on children in the busy playground. A witness filmed the scene, in which the words “In the name of Jesus Christ” can be heard as the suspect raises the knife. After stabbing three children, he moved on to another part of the park where he attacked a 78-year-old man who was looking after a grandchild. The police arrived. At least one bullet was fired, but it missed the attacker and hit the grandfather, who was hospitalised in a critical condition.
An ice-cream seller in the park told a regional newspaper that he had seen the attacker, who appeared to be homeless, in the park in recent days.