On Sunday, four college students in their junior year studying abroad were attacked with a weak form of hydrochloric acid. The incident occurred at a train station in France by a 41-year-old woman. The Marseille fire department was contacted and the situation was handled shortly after.
The perpetrator has since been taken into custody and hospitalized for mental instability. It is known that she has had mental health problems in her past. The assailant did not try to flee the scene and did not resist arrest.
All four students attend Boston College (BC), a private Jesuit university in Chestnut, Massachusetts. In a statement released by Nick Gozik, a director for Boston College’s Office of Internationally Programs, said that all four girls are being treated for the burns they received on their faces from the acid. He also stated that the parents of all students have been contacted and they remain in touch with the French officials and U.S. Embassy.
The French Police do not feel that the acid attack was in any way related to terrorism. Paris prosecutor’s office released an official statement explaining that the counter-terrorism division has decided that, for the time being, they will not get involved in the situation. Although authorities did not explain the reasoning behind not taking jurisdiction over the incident, it is believed that the woman is a “disturbed” individual that is not a severe threat to a large population. A spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor’s office explained in a phone call that the suspect made no comments about extremist views nor did she make any future threats.
Even though this attack has not been considered an act of terrorism, the French officials have become very aware of extremist violence. In the past, a driver with psychiatric problems intentionally smashed into two buses stationed in Marseille, killing one woman and injuring another. In April, right before the initial round of France’s presidential election, two suspected radicals were arrested as they were flagged as dangerous for speaking about an “imminent terrorist attack.” In January of 2016, a fifteen-year-old was arrested for attacking a teacher on the streets of Marseille as he believed he acted “in the name of the Islamic State group.”
Boston College identified the girls as Courtney Siverling, Charlotte Kaufman, Michelle Krug, and Kelsey Kosten. Two of the four were also treated for shock along with their facial burns.
A few of the girls have taken to Facebook to reassure friends and family members. Kelsey Kosten wrote in a Facebook post that “after being treated we are all doing much better.” She added that two of the other girls are being treated for more severe injuries, such as eye damage.
So far, there has not been any more information released about the suspect or the victims by the French officials or U.S. Embassy.
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