Four small children and two adults were injured Thursday morning when a knife-wielding man attacked them in a playground in a park in the French Alpine town of Annecy, officials said. French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, visiting the town later Thursday, confirmed reports that the suspect was a Syrian man who had applied for refugee status in France.
"We are talking about a Syrian refugee who has refugee status in Sweden and who applied for asylum in France, but this was overridden by the Swedish one," Borne told reporters. "This person has no criminal record and neither does he have any kind of psychiatric record."
Public prosecutor Linne Bonnett said there did not "seem to be any kind of terrorist motivation" for the brazen attack on the children as they played at the local beauty spot.
Police were immediately deployed to the scene and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said in a tweet that the sole suspect was "arrested thanks to the very rapid intervention of the police."
French police said later confirmed that six people were wounded in the attack, including four children.
Ambulances ferried the victims to a nearby hospital and local newspaper Le Dauphiné libéré said earlier that at least three of the children were in critical condition.
Reports said the children were all about three years old and were from a kindergarten class that was playing in the Jardins de l'Europe lakeside park. The local police chief ordered the area cordoned off and urged the public to stay away. Soldiers blocked access to local roads as police questioned eyewitnesses. Police were also ordered to set up a security perimeter around the Quai Jules-Philippe school, which is on the opposite side of the canal that flows into Lake Annecy.
President Emmanuel Macron condemned what he called an "absolutely cowardly attack."
"Children and an adult are between life and death," he said in a tweet. "The nation is in shock. Our thoughts are with them as well as with their families and the emergency services on the scene."
One eyewitness told local radio the man was heard speaking English and clearly targeted the children.
Unverified videos posted to social media appeared to show a man with a beard, wearing a headscarf, dark sunglasses and shorts which revealed a leg tattoo running around in the park and chasing people with a knife in his hand. A woman with a child in a stroller in the playground appeared to confront the man as he approached in one video and she could be heard shouting at him in English, "No! Get away from the kids!"
In London, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said one of the children wounded in the attack was a U.K. national.
The French National Assembly interrupted a debate on controversial pension reforms to observe a minute's silence for the victims.
CBS News' Emmet Lyons in London contributed to this report.
for more features.