François Astorg, the mayor of the town that was the site of one of the most heinous crimes in Europe’s recent history on Thursday, waxed lyrical about the town’s dedication to inclusivity and diversity just days before a Syrian migrant embarked on a stabbing spree targeting toddlers.
“Annecy is a land of resistance to fascism, a land of solidarity, a city of refuge for those fleeing war, misery and misfortune in the world,” Astorg tweeted on May 23, describing it as his administration’s “duty” and “honor” to receive new arrivals to Europe.
Astorg had sent his tweet in condemnation of a nationalist march that had taken place in the town on the evening of May 16 as activists carried torches and French flags through the streets before stopping in front of the Notre Dame church.
“Last night our city council unanimously adopted a Republican wish condemning the demonstration that took place last Tuesday evening. Xenophobic, ultra-nationalist values will never have a place in our city,” Astorg said in response to the march.
Fast-forward a fortnight, and the Annecy mayor was leading the tributes to four young children — the eldest of whom was just three years old — and two adults who were stabbed by a 31-year-old Syrian refugee at a park in the town.
‘He started stabbing the little ones’ – Syrian migrant stabs 7 very young children in French park, at least 2 in critical condition
The children are aged about three years old and at least three are in critical condition
French media reported the attacker, known only as Abdalmasih H., is understood to have been living in Sweden since 2013 where he had been granted asylum and is married to a Swedish woman with whom he has a three-year-old daughter.
He had also claimed asylum in France and a number of other European countries, but his application was rejected a few days prior to the attack on the basis that he already had the rights he was applying for due to his refugee status in Sweden.
“His request in France was therefore pointless. He was legal from the point of view of EU law,” a source close to the investigation told the French newspaper Libération.
French authorities provided an update on the investigation on Friday, with the Annecy prosecutor’s office confirming the suspect’s custody has been extended. No further communication from the prosecutor is expected in the short term.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced on Friday the condition of the victims was improving.
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“I am closely monitoring the state of health of the victims. Their condition is stable. Fortunately, all the injured children were able to be operated on,” she told French media.
Three of the four children were hospitalized in Grenoble following the attack, while a fourth child was transferred to a hospital in Geneva.