As Knifeman Began Stabbing Kids, Backpacker Stepped in

France's Henri d'Anselme says he was 'guided by providence' to intervene in stabbing attack
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2023 11:04 AM CDT
'Beanpole' Confronts Knifeman, Becomes a Hero
French President Emmanuel Macron meets Henri, second right, the 24-year-old 'backpack hero,' his friends Lilian and Youssouf. Henri suffered minor stab wounds as he tried to intercept the suspect as he fled, in Annecy, French Alps, Friday, June 9, 2023.   (Denis Balibouse/Pool via AP)

A man on a year-long walking tour of France's cathedrals says he was meant to be in an Annecy park on Thursday as an assailant began stabbing children. Henri d'Anselme, 24, of Paris has been dubbed "the backpack hero" after he intervened in Thursday's attack that left two adults and four toddlers injured. Video footage shows him using backpacks in an attempt to block the attacker, whom he then pursues, per Reuters. At one point, he throws a bag at the assailant. "I didn't even think about it," the devout Catholic said of pursuing the "furious madman," per the Guardian. "I let myself be guided by providence and the Virgin Mary," he added, per Reuters. "I said my adieu. They would decide what would happen."

He was nine months and 800 miles into his tour, documented on Instagram, when he stopped in Annecy, about 25 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland. He shared a photo of the city's namesake lake early Thursday before "atrocious scenes" unfolded at a park on the lakeshore, where families were enjoying the sunshine. When d'Anselme heard screams and saw a man with a knife, he ran toward the chaos and ended up "chasing the attacker out of the children's area," per the Guardian. His bravery was all the more surprising as a friend describes d'Anselme as "a beanpole who is afraid of heights," per the outlet. "But you do what you can," said d'Anselme, who met French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday. "Anyone would have done what I did."

Two adults and four children between the ages of 22 and 36 months, including a British national and a Dutch national, were injured in the morning attack, Reuters reports. Two of the toddlers who were critically injured were listed in stable conditon on Friday. Police arrested a 31-year old Syrian national who was granted asylum in Sweden 10 years ago and entered France legally, per Reuters. The man, believed to be homeless, had been questioned by police on Sunday while washing himself in Annecy lake, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said late Thusday, according to the outlet. He added the man's request for asylum in France was rejected around the same time. (More France stories.)

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