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France stabbing – latest: Annecy locals attend mass as Mayor says injured children are ‘stable’

Father Didier Milani and Bishop Yves Le Saux were pictured hosting the packed service in Annecy on Friday

Eleanor Noyce,Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 09 June 2023 19:07 BST

Flowers and toys laid in tribute at Annecy park after knifeman stabbed children and adults

Locals have attended a mass for the victims of an “unfathomable” knife attack at a lakeside playpark in southeastern France.

Father Didier Milani and Bishop Yves Le Saux were pictured hosting the service in Annecy on Friday, one day after the incident in which four young children and two pensioners were injured, to a church packed full of people praying for the victims.

On Friday afternoon the Mayor of Annecy said he was “confident” about the condition of the children involved in the attack.

Francois Astorg told reporters close to the scene: “The children are stable right now, the adults are much better.”

A suspect has been arrested and identified as a 31-year-old Syrian refugee, who authorities say had been refused asylum in France days earlier, as he had been granted refugee status in Sweden earlier this year.

Well-wishers continued to visit the park on Friday morning to lay flowers and other tributes for those injured in the attack. The children are between 22 months and three years old.

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Attacker was ‘incoherent’, says father of ‘backpack hero'

The father of the young man dubbed the “backpack hero” said that his son told him the attacker was “incoherent, saying lots of strange things in different languages, invoking his father, his mother, all the gods”.

He told the Associated Press: “In short, he was possessed by who knows what, but possessed by folly, that’s certain.”

The man, who wished only to be named Francois, said he didn’t show the disturbing video of the attack to his other children and his wife, and added that he and his wife had trouble sleeping even after learning that his son was safe.

“We thanked providence and his guardian angels,” he said.

Chris Stevenson9 June 2023 15:43
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Macron says British girl is awake

Emmanuel Macron has said the young British girl who was caught up in yesterday's attack and who received surgery had "woken up".

"She is watching TV and [the attack] is just a bad memory already," he is quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

“Doctors are optimistic," Mr Macron added, though he said caution was still required.

Chris Stevenson9 June 2023 15:32
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Father of ‘backpack hero’ says son was ‘very courageous'

Henri’s father, François, has said that he believes his son’s dogged pursuit helped dissuade the attacker from stabbing more victims before police wrestled him to the ground.

“He took a lot of risks – when he wasn’t armed, with just his backpacks,” he told The Associated Press. “He didn’t stop running after him for many minutes, to stop him from coming back and massacring the kids even more. I think he prevented carnage by scaring him off. Really very courageous.”

François asked that their last name not be published, expressing concerns about their family being thrust suddenly and inadvertently into the public eye at a time of shock and outrage in France provoked by the viciousness of Thursday’s attack and the helplessness of its young victims.

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 15:17
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‘You have my gratitude and admiration’: Macron praises rescuers

Emmanuel Macron has praised those who intervened in yesterday’s attack, as he met with rescuers and first responders in Annecy.

“I wanted to thank you on behalf of the nation for what you did ... Now is time for you to think about yourselves, especially those who intervened first,” the French president said. “Some [psychological] wounds will have to be healed so they don’t reopen later.”

He added : “I am proud of what was done by our fellow citizens who simply happened to be there. I am proud of the role you took on ... By just doing your duty, you did so much more than that.”

“You showed the face of a France that saves, that intervenes, that heals,” he concluded. “You have my gratitude and my admiration.”

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 15:03
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Macron meets ‘backpack hero’ in Annecy

Emmanuel Macron has met with the “backpack hero” who appeared to chase off the knife attacker at the lakeside park in Annecy.

The French president arrived at a local police headquarters close to the park at around 3pm with his wife Brigitte.

He then shook hands with Henri, 24, who intervened during the incident.

Dozens of police officers were present as he arrived at the building, just a short walk away from the incident.

Emmanuel Macron meets Henri, the 24-year-old ‘backpack hero’, his friend Lilian and Youssouf, who suffered minor stab wounds as he tried to intercept the suspect

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 14:43
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Full report: France ‘absolutely shaken’ by attack, says prime minister

The suspected knifeman has no criminal or psychiatric record and appears to have acted alone, French prime minister Elisabeth Borne has said.

“We are talking here about infants, very young infants who have been very seriously injured,” she told a press conference, according to a translation.

“We are absolutely shaken by all this and we are standing firm by the people of Annecy.”

British girl injured in Annecy stabbing was on holiday at time of attack

The knifeman attacked four children – aged between 22 months and three years – and two adults at a lakeside park on Thursday.

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 14:39
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Macron meets family of British girl injured in attack

Emmanuel Macron has met the family of the three-year-old British girl hospitalised in Grenoble after Thursday’s knife attack.

Three of the young children attacked in Annecy – including the British toddler – were taken to the hospital in Grenoble, the first stop of the French president’s visit to the region today, while the other young victim was taken to Geneva.

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 13:45
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Watch: Suspect ‘tried to attack me’, recalls ‘backpack hero’

The man hailed as the “backpack hero”, who intervened to try and fend off the attacker with his luggage, has told BFM TV that, “at times like that, you do whatever you can with whatever you've got”.

“Many other people intervened in whatever way they could – I saw a park employee try to hit the attacker with his big plastic spade,” said the 24-year-old, adding: “I acted like any French person would.

“If there is any lesson to be learned from my experience, it's that anything is possible if you stop being passive in the face of attacks of this kind.”

France stabbing: Suspect 'tried to attack me', recalls 'backpack hero'
Andy Gregory9 June 2023 13:31
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‘Hero’ pilgrim says attacker’s actions ‘profoundly un-Christian’

The Catholic pilgrim dubbed the “backpack hero” who intervened during yesterday’s attack has dubbed the knifeman’s actions “profoundly un-Christian”, after eyewitnesses said the attacker invoked Jesus Christ during his rampage.

Asked about the suggestion that attacker may have been Christian, the 24-year-old named only as Henri said: “It is profoundly un-Christian to attack the vulnerable. The entire Christian civilisation on which our country is built is a knightly message to defend widows and orphans.

“I think that, on the contrary, something very bad inhabited him.”

Henri – who is set to meet president Emmanuel Macron later today – said he had to revisit the gruesome details of the attack during a three-hour statement to police on Thursday.

“I now have all these horrible images in my head. I need to try and turn that into something positive,” he said.

He would continue his months-long walking tour of France’s cathedrals and hoped to show social media followers “how the beauty of the cathedrals can nourish us and help us do the right thing”, he said, telling BFM TV: “Because of these events, I will be able to reach more people. I thank heaven.”

France hails ‘backpack hero’ who confronted knifeman in ‘unspeakable’ Annecy attack

Calls for student on a nine-month cathedral pilgrimage to be awarded Legion of Honour after ‘incredible’ bravery

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 13:02
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Tearful British mother says ‘pirate playground’ was ‘a local treasure’

A British mother of two living in Annecy was in tears as she said her son had asked to visit the lakeside park on the day of the attack.

Katie Jackson, 39, moved to the area in south-east France from London three years ago with her husband and sons Rudy, five, and nine-month-old Vinnie.

Speaking at the park, Ms Jackson said: “Yesterday we were inundated with phone calls from friends and relatives at home in the UK, and everybody was asking if we were safe. I know there was a British girl and they were here on holiday, and my heart just breaks for them.

“Locally we call this the ‘pirate playground’, because it has a pirate ship in it; it’s a place that our kids know and love. It was my son’s fifth birthday yesterday and he had mentioned he would be interested in going to the pirate place, but he was at school.

“It’s a local treasure, that’s why it’s so shocking. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t visited the pirate playground.”

Andy Gregory9 June 2023 12:45

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