Young backpacker who tried to stop knife attack in southeast France hailed as hero

Jun 9, 2023, 12:44 PM

ANNECY, France — A 24-year-old man has been hailed as a hero for chasing a man suspected of launching a knife rampage in Annecy, which left six people injured including four toddlers.

Two young children are still in intensive care following Thursday’s knife attack in southeast France, when screams rippled through a playground in the small Alpine town during the brutal assault.

A 31-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker was detained on suspicion of carrying out the attack, French media and CNN affiliate BFMTV reported Thursday. The suspect is being held in custody at a police station in Annecy, according to BFMTV.

The backpacker who attempted to stop the knife attack has been dubbed the “backpack hero” locally. He identified himself only as Henri to French media.

“I tried to act as every Frenchman should act. Or how every Frenchmen would act,” the young man told BFMTV on Friday, adding that he “did not even think.”

“It was just impossible to leave defenseless people to be attacked like that by someone who seemed to me effectively to be a maniac,” he said.

Videos filmed by bystanders show Henri confronting the perpetrator and swinging his bag to fight him off.

“Our eyes met and I could feel that this was a guy who was not in a right state, that something evil was in him,” Henri added.

Members of the public on Friday wrote messages and laid floral tributes at the scene of the incident, Reuters reported. Passersby were seen wiping away tears as bouquets of flowers and balloons were strewn across the playground.

French government spokesperson Olivier Veran said on the radio station France Info that two of the children injured in the attack are in a “vitally urgent” state, after surgical intervention. The wounded were treated in hospitals in Geneva and Grenoble, according to Annecy mayor François Astorg.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte arrived in Annecy on Friday to meet victims, their families and those who intervened in the attack, Veran said.

The Elysée Palace released a statement saying Macron and his wife would also be meeting the people who helped and supported the victims and their loved ones in the aftermath of the incident.

Macron met and thanked Henri on Friday alongside other first aid responders, according to AFP and other French media.

Henri was walking towards the motorway to hitchhike to the Hautecombe Abbey when he came across the horrific scene.

Henri is on a nine-month journey across the country to visit the most beautiful cathedrals of France, he told BFMTV.

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Young backpacker who tried to stop knife attack in southeast France hailed as hero