Paris: A man suspected of stabbing four children and two adults in a park in the French Alps on Saturday could face charges after an attack that spread across France and abroad.
Children aged 22 months to 3 years are still hospitalized, but French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with doctors on Friday and expressed hope that the children’s condition will continue to improve.
The six victims were from four countries: France, England, Holland and Portugal.
Local officials said the suspect, a 31-year-old Syrian political refugee with permanent residency in Sweden, is due to appear before a judge on Saturday. District Attorney Ryne Bonnet-Mattis was scheduled to hold a press conference later that day.
Police detained the suspect in a lakeside park in the town of Annecy after attempts were made by witnesses, notably a Catholic pilgrim who repeatedly waved his backpack at the perpetrator.
The motives behind Thursday’s brutal attacks in and around the playground remain unexplained. Prosecutors said it did not appear to be terrorism-related.
Macron visited the victims and their families, first responders and witnesses said on Friday.
Macron said his two most seriously injured young French cousins were in stable condition and doctors were “very confident”.
The injured British girl was “up and watching TV,” he added.
An injured Dutch girl has also recovered, and a seriously injured adult who was stabbed with a knife and was hit by a bullet fired by police while detaining the suspected attacker has regained consciousness, the president said.
A seriously injured adult was treated in Annecy. Portugal’s foreign ministry said he was Portuguese and “now out of danger”. The newspaper said the man was injured “while trying to stop the attacker from escaping from the police”. A second injured adult was discharged with a bandage on his left elbow.
Pilgrim Henri, 24, has been walking and hitchhiking around French cathedrals for nine months, but said he was on his way to another monastery when the terror unfolded before him. The assailant slashed at him, but Mr. Henri held on and waved the heavy backpack he was carrying towards the assailant.
Henri’s father said his son “told me that this Syrian man was incoherent, summoning his father, his mother, all the gods, saying a lot of strange things in different languages.”
The suspect’s profile has sparked renewed criticism of France’s immigration policy from far-right and conservative politicians. But authorities said the suspect entered France legally because he has Swedish permanent residency. Both Sweden and France are members of the European Union and are European travel zones without borders.
The French interior minister said he had applied for asylum in France last year but was denied days before the attack on the grounds that he had already obtained asylum in Sweden in 2013.