By: Christian Haag
June 13 2023
The knifeman was a Christian Syrian who had lived in Sweden for 10 years and had previously been in the Syrian military.
Several false claims are circulating regarding the suspect of a stabbing in Annecy, France on June 9, 2023. Claims include that he was a Muslim, a member of ISIS, and an undocumented refugee.
A video on TikTok including such claims, uploaded shortly after the attack, gained 50,000 views. On Twitter, anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer, founder of Jihad Watch, claimed that the attacker was Muslim, attaining 500,000 views and multiple shares. Jihad Watch also published articles claiming the perpetrator was Muslim. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Glossary of Extremism,” Jihad Watch “promotes bigoted and conspiratorial anti-Muslim content.”
However, multiple reputable sources show that the claims are false.
The suspect is a Christian Syrian refugee who arrived in Sweden in the summer of 2013 after deserting the Syrian army and traveling to Turkey. He was granted permanent residence the same year. In November 2017, he applied for citizenship but it was denied by the Swedish Migration Agency, as was a subsequent application sent in August 2018, which was denied in February 2022. Both Le Monde and Swedish Channel 4 state that the knifeman was denied citizenship as a result of his Syrian army participation, where he was both a sergeant and guard, seeing military action from June 2011 to December 2012.
According to several French and Swedish news media outlets, the perpetrator shouted “in the name of Jesus Christ” during the attack. Prosecutor Lisa Bonnet-Mathis said during a press conference that he mentioned his wife, daughter, and Jesus during the attack. Furthermore, there is no evidence that he is or was a member of ISIS.
Since a 2004 government decision, any applicant for naturalization in Sweden who has been active in an organization that is believed to have used torture, murder, or extrajudicial execution, cannot be granted Swedish citizenship. According to the independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic at the U.N., the Syrian military is guilty of several crimes of unlawful detention, torture, rape, and murder, which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The suspect left Sweden after being denied citizenship, applying for asylum in France, Switzerland, and Italy. He was denied asylum in France four days prior to the stabbings due to his Swedish refugee status. His recently divorced ex-wife confirmed to AFP that she had last spoken to him four months ago and that he had been living in a church in Annecy.
There is plentiful evidence that the attacker was Christian, was well documented, and was a Syrian army official. Sources show he was not Muslim, nor was he a member of ISIS. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.