Four toddlers were hospitalized after a brutal stabbing attack on Thursday in Annecy, France, that triggered a wave of panic in the Alpine town.
Two adults were also injured in the attack, at least one of them requiring surgery, Annecy mayor François Astorg said. The injured were treated in hospitals in Geneva and Grenoble, according to Astorg, who added that some of the children were in a stable condition after leaving the operating theater.
Eyewitnesses described the attacker entering a playground to target the children.
“He jumped (in the playground), started shouting and then went towards the strollers, repeatedly hitting the little ones with a knife,” one eyewitness told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
“Mothers were crying, everybody was running,” another eyewitness told Reuters.
All of the children injured are under the age of 3 years old, Annecy prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis said in a press conference Thursday. One child is a Dutch national, according to Bonnet-Mathis, and another is a British national, per UK authorities.
A Syrian asylum-seeker has been detained on suspicion of carrying out the attack, Bonnet-Mathis also said. The suspect was not under the influence of alcohol or other substances at the time of the attack, and there was no apparent terrorist motive.
French media and BFMTV reported that the man was 31 year old, citing police sources. The suspect had legally applied for asylum late last year and on his application described himself to be a “Christian from Syria,” BFMTV also said. He had lived in Sweden for 10 years and applied for asylum status in France, but his request was rejected.
French President Emmanuel Macron said “the nation is in shock,” following the attack.
“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, their families and the emergency services,” Macron tweeted
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the attack was “a truly cowardly act.”
“My thoughts are with all of those affected by the shocking attack in Annecy this morning,” he tweeted. “The UK and France have always stood together against acts of violence, and we do so again today.”
Health Minister François Braun tweeted that his thoughts were with the victims of the knife attack. “All my thoughts go immediately to the people injured by an individual armed with a knife in Annecy, and to their loved ones,” Braun tweeted.
“I salute the rapid mobilization of the emergency services to take care of the victims, and notably the Urgent Medical Aid Service (SAMU).”
Lawmakers in the French National Assembly observed a minute’s silence for those injured in the attack.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will travel to Annecy with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Thursday, according to the interior ministry.
CNN’s Catherine Nicholls, Amy Croffey and Zahid Mahmood contributed reporting.