An attacker with a knife stabbed several very young children and at least one adult, leaving some with life-threatening injuries, in a lakeside park in a town in the French Alps on Thursday before he was arrested, authorities said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said “children and an adult are between life and death.” He described the assault in the Alpine town of Annecy as an “attack of absolute cowardice.”
“The nation is in shock,” he tweeted.
Police detained the attacker, said Interior Minster Gerald Darmanin. National police said the attacker was a man in his 30s.
Local police said the four child victims were all under 5 years old.
A witness who spoke to BFMTV said at least one of the children was attacked in a stroller by the man who approached and “started stabbing.”
National police said two of the children, both around 3 years old, suffered life-threatening injuries. One adult also suffered life-threatening wounds.
A witness who spoke to BFMTV said he saw the attacker assault an elderly man, jumping on him and stabbing him repeatedly. He said he yelled at police to act.
“I screamed, screamed at them to intervene,” he said.
An ice cream seller who works in the waterside park said he’d seen the attacker there several days previously, looking out at the lake ringed by mountains.
Local police said a second adult also was injured and was being treated with the others in a hospital. They gave no other details about the victim, and the discrepancy in the number of adult victims wasn’t immediately explained.
A local lawmaker, Antoine Armand, said the children were attacked on a playground in the park. Speaking to BFMTV from the National Assembly building in Paris, he said the victims included “very young” children and that they were “savagely attacked.” The attack took place close to a primary school, he said.
In Paris, lawmakers interrupted a debate to hold a moment of silence for the victims.
Lewis Joly / AP
The assembly president, Yaël Braun-Pivet, said: “There are some very young children who are in critical condition and I invite you to respect a minute of silence for them, for their families, and so that, we hope, the consequences of this very grave attack do not lead to the nation grieving.”