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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Katie Weston

France stabbings: Hero speaks out after chasing knifeman and throwing his bag at him

A hero who attempted to stop a frenzied knife attack at a playground in France has spoken out, writing: "Pray for the victims, I'm fine."

The knifeman, who is believed to be 31-year-old Abdelmasih Hanoun, critically injured four children and two adults at a lakeside park in Annecy yesterday morning.

A three-year-year-old British girl was among those wounded, as well as a 22-month-old boy.

In a horrific video of the attack, which was filmed on a mobile phone, a 24-year-old man named Henri was seen hitting the knifeman with his bag and then chasing after him.

The philosophy graduate, who is on a pilgrimage of cathedrals in France, has since taken to social media to send his thoughts and prayers to the families of the young victims.

The philosophy graduate seen chasing the knifeman (AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)
A video showing the frenzied attack yesterday (AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)

Henri wrote in French yesterday: "I'm at the police station for a witness statement. It will definitely take a long time.

"Pray for the victims, I am fine."

Posting on Instagram, he later added: "Thank you for all your messages of support.

"I'm thinking in particular of the victims and their parents. I hope they will come out of this.".

The knifeman first targeted two French cousins named as Ennio and Alba, both two, and then attacked Ettie, a three-year-old English girl on holiday with her parents, and Peter, a 22-month-old Dutch boy.

This morning, Ennio and Alba remained in hospital in the nearby city of Grenoble, where their condition was described as "critical".

Ettie was in the same hospital and her condition was "stable", while Peter was also "stable" having been transferred to a specialist medical unit in Geneva.

Line Bonnet-Mathis, the Annecy Prosecutor who is leading the investigation into the crimes, said: "We are dealing with very young victims whose state of health is still extremely fragile. All are in intensive care."

Two adults were also slashed with a knife by Hanoun – Manuel, 70, and Yusuf, 78, who was also hit by police bullet in error.

Hanoun himself was also treated after being shot by police before his arrest, but was still well enough to talk to officers.

He described himself as a 'Syrian-Christian', who was filmed saying "in the name of Jesus Christ" throughout the attack, said an investigating source.

Ms Bonnet-Mathis told a press conference on Thursday afternoon the attacker's motives remain unclear, but do not appear to be related to terrorism.

In a statement released last night, Yves Le Breton, the prefect of Haute-Savoie region - the department that governs Annecy, said public demonstrations would be banned for the remainder of the day over fears of far-right violence.

A translation of a statement released by the prefect, who is the state's representative in the region, said: "Because of calls for demonstrations entitled 'Francocide' (Killing of French people) and in order to warn of all risk of trouble to public order, the prefect of Haute-Savoie has imposed a ban on all demonstrations on Thursday at Annecy.

"These calls to demonstrate could in effect be considered a provocation and risk attracting counter-demonstrations of trouble and violence."

Soldiers patrol after a knife attack in Annecy (AP)

The attacker was granted refugee status in Sweden 10 years ago, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.

The Swedish Migration Agency has confirmed he was granted permanent residency in 2013 and, although the agency did not identify the suspect, said he subsequently sought Swedish citizenship in 2017 and 2018, both denied, and applied again in August last year.

Footage of the attack shared on the internet showed a man in dark glasses and with a blue scarf covering his head brandishing a blade as people screamed for help.

In another video, the man appeared to shout "in the name of Jesus Christ" while waving the knife in the air, with people nearby heard screaming for police.

He then slashed at a man carrying a rucksack who attempted to approach him. The video then showed a woman frantically pushing a stroller inside the play area of the park as the attacker approached her while she screamed for help.

She attempted to fend off the attacker before he leaned forward and stabbed down into the stroller.

Ms Borne said the suspect has no criminal or psychiatric record and appeared to have acted alone.

Following the attack, deputy mayor of Annecy, Chantale Farmer, told BBC News how schools were put in "lockdown" to protect children in the area.

She said: "We try to protect the children because we had schools around so we locked them down for a while and so we (could) also give information to the parents and also to the people working in those schools.

Tributes left near the scene at a lakeside park (PA)

"All the people in Annecy are very shocked right now."

Ms Farmer said psychological help has been put in place to support those who witnessed the attack, including a class of schoolchildren who were in the park at the time.

The involvement of a British victim was confirmed earlier on Thursday by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Mr Cleverly, speaking at an OECD ministerial council press conference in France hours after the attack, said: "We have already deployed British consular officials who are travelling to the area to make themselves available to support the family.

"And of course we stand in strong solidarity with the people of France at this terrible time."

Speaking at a press conference at the White House on Thursday alongside President Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the attack as "unfathomable".

He added: "All our thoughts are with those who were affected in this unfathomable attack, including a British child, and their families.

"I have been in touch with (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron. We stand ready to offer any assistance that we can."

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