France seeks explanations for the horror of Annecy and celebrates its heroes | International

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This is the story of a city and a country horrified by a crime for no apparent reason, and at the same time dazzled by the courageous acts of citizens who prevented a massacre. It is also the story of Abdalmasih and Henri. One is Syrian; the other, French. The former is in custody for stabbing several young children Thursday in a park in Annecy, a placid and prosperous town in the French Alps. The second rests these days in a house in a residential neighborhood of that same city and tries to digest what happened in the last hours.

It was Henri who, armed only with his backpack, chased Abdalmasih away from the playground where he was chasing children and babies — “the most barbaric act conceivable,” said the president, Emmanuel Macron — and thus, risking his life, saved that of others. If there were no deaths, it was thanks to Henri and other citizens who chased Abdalmasih and allowed the police to arrest him a few minutes later.

This is the story of Abdalmasih and Henri, two fates that fortuitously crossed paths, two men born in the nineties, 31 and 24 years old, respectively. One wanted to hurt and kill defenseless beings and another saved them and is already called the "hero with the backpack". The first was carrying a cross in his hand when he carried out the attack. In one of the videos that he has circulated on social networks, he seems to say in English: "In the name of Jesus Christ." The second is a devout Catholic stopping over in Annecy during a nine-month walking tour of the cathedrals of France.

This is the story of a Syrian refugee who declared himself a Christian from the East and with a Christian name – Abdalmasih means “servant of the messiah” – and a French boy who says he has felt guided by faith in Christ since he was a child.

Henri told BFM-TV on Friday morning: "I don't know what [religión] is claimed [Abdalmasih], but what I know is that it is profoundly anti-Christian to attack perfectly unarmed and weak innocent beings. Every Christian civilization, on which our country has been built, consists precisely of a chivalrous message to defend the widow and the orphan”.

"Now he's very tired, he's resting," said Arnaud, Henri's uncle, at midday when he opened the door of the house where he lives these days. Arnaud prefers not to give his last name, nor Henri's. He recounted that his niece was not afraid: "he acted on instinct." He says that maybe it was his past like boy scout, which guided him. And religion: "Faith drives you."

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In the portal of the central Royale street, where Abdalmasih spent the night in recent months, Sofia Moreno, a woman of Portuguese origin who manages rental apartments in the building, explained: "I never saw his face: he covered his head with a handkerchief. She didn't say anything. As far as I know, he was never aggressive."

France moves between fear and incomprehension. And hope about the state of the seriously injured, who are improving, according to the latest information. Of the four injured children, one is Dutch and the other English.

Macron and his wife, Brigitte, visited the injured and their families hospitalized in nearby Grenoble. He later met in Annecy with the citizens, police and staff who subdued the attacker and rescued the victims — among them, the “hero with the backpack” — and declared: “We can have the greatest hope for children and adults affected. Normally, things will continue to improve.”

The unknowns accumulate about the trajectory of the aggressor and his motivations. It is known that he is Syrian, that he arrived in Sweden about a decade ago, that he obtained a permanent residence permit in that country, that he married a woman of Syrian origin and a Swedish national, that they had a daughter, that they separated. Why at the end of 2022 he went to France – and why to Annecy, a postcard city with its lake and its imposing mountains – is not clear. One possible reason is that Sweden denied him citizenship, supposedly because between 2011 and 2013 he had belonged to the Syrian Army, according to the daily. the world. In France he filed an asylum application, which was rejected on June 5.

The interrogation is progressing slowly, according to an investigation source cited by the world. The source assures that Abdalmasih maintains an "obstructionist" attitude. “He throws himself on the ground,” he adds. A psychiatric examination has established that he is "anxious and depressed," according to BFM-TV.

The event is flammable political matter. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, told Europe 1 radio: “A referendum on immigration is needed. It's the only way to regain control. I do not admit that we cannot decide who enters and who remains in our territory.

Le Pen connects with a malaise present in French society, and in Annecy. And he encourages it.

Friday, 9:45 a.m., in Le Pâquier, the meadow by the lake where 24 hours earlier Abdalmasih stabbed the children and where Henri and other citizens stopped him. There are journalists, cameras, neighbors who come to bring flowers and leave messages. A social gathering is spontaneously formed, and what some say is not at all kind to the President of the Republic. Some are not happy that he is coming.

Valérie, a 50-year-old administrative assistant, says: “The president, right now, needs to regain popularity, and when there is an event like this, he tries to clean up his image. What I blame him is that this will be forgotten, until there is another drama. And what changes? Nothing". Valérie is in favor of a referendum on immigration. "And the result," she adds, "I already know: people are fed up." Sylvie, mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, points out the age of some of the injured: “They should send everyone to their countries, all those who do not have papers. It's sad to say, but we don't feel safe." Matías, a 19-year-old student who has heard the conversation, approaches the journalist and says: "I find it a bit silly that politics gets involved here, I prefer that we contribute our support to the families."

Abdalmasih lived between this park and the portal of Royale Street, a pedestrian area of ​​shops and cafes. By day he settled on a bank by the river. At seven in the evening he would walk to the portal that served as his residence, spread some cardboard under the mailboxes and cover himself with a sleeping bag. He was well dressed and before going to sleep he brushed his teeth, recalls Bertrand, who runs a sportswear store right in front of the portal. Bertrand saw him arrive when he was closing the shop. When I opened it in the morning, he was already gone.

Sofía Moreno, the woman who is in charge of apartments in the Royale street building and who crossed paths with Abdalmasih almost daily, corroborates that their hours were rigorous. There was only one exception. They were a recent Saturday or Sunday, she does not specify the exact date. “It was the only time she saw him sleeping earlier,” she explains. “He had a bottle of whiskey with him. I told myself that he would be drunk ”.

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