Four Boston College Students Studying Abroad Attacked By Mentally Instable French Woman in Marseille, France
by Heather Cassell
Four American college students studying abroad were attacked with acid thrown in their faces by an unknown French woman while they were returning to Paris at Marseille-Saint Charles train station September 17.
Firemen and police arrived immediately following the attack, according to media reports.
The 20-something Boston College women – Charlotte Kaufmanm, Kesley Kosten, Michelle Krug, and Courtney Siverling – were immediately hospitalized, treated for burns wounds and shock, and released Sunday.
Two of the women suffered from facial injuries, one of the women possibly experienced an injury to her eye, from the hydrochloric acid, and the other two women were treated for shock, a spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor’s office tells the Associated Press.
The women are enrolled in the college’s international program. Courtney, Charlotte, and Michelle are studying through Boston College’s Paris Program. Kelsey is a student at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, according to a September 18 statement from Boston College.
They are all juniors at Boston College. They plan to continue their studies in Europe, according to the statement.
“It appears that the students are fine, considering the circumstances, though they may require additional treatment for burns,” Nick Gozik, director of the college’s Office of International Programs tells USA Today.
The US consulate in Marseille is in contact with investigators, says Alex Daniels, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Paris, tells the AP. Alex wouldn’t comment on the incident, citing privacy reasons.
The women “offered forgiveness” to the women who attacked them, according to the statement.
“We are very proud of our students and the gracious manner in which they have handled themselves throughout this ordeal,” says University Spokesman Jack Dunn in the statement. “The BC community is here to provide whatever support and assistance they need.”
The women were attacked by a 41-year old French woman, who allegedly suffers from mental illness, Sunday at about 11 a.m. at in Marseille, a port city in the south of France. The woman remained at the scene showing police officers pictures of her burns. The police arrested her. Authorities did not release her name, reports USA Today.
Investigators are currently not considering the assault on the women as a terrorist attack, but it couldn’t be ruled out of the investigation as it is in its early stages and the suspect didn’t make any extremist threats, according to media reports.
The spokeswoman at the Marseille prosecutor’s office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, per the French judicial system, tells the newspaper, “there were no obvious indications that the woman’s actions were terror-related, but added that officials could not 100 percent rule out terror links at such an early stage of the investigation.”
Acid attacks are on the rise in France and the United Kingdom, according to experts.
Marseille has been the site of at least two attacks and one attempted attack this year.
In January, an unidentified 15-year old Turkish Kurd attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete claiming it was on behalf of the Islamic State, reports the Washington Post. In April, authorities arrested two French nationals before they carried out a planned attack. In August, a man drove a van into two bus stops at a popular tourist spot killing one and injuring the other. The incident wasn’t considered a terrorist attack.
British authorities have seen acid attacks triple within the last three years, with 460 acid attacks were reported in London in 2016 alone, reports the Post.
Authorities believe that the spike in attacks is related to an emerging trend in criminal ganges along with the ease and affordability of obtaining the chemicals in combination with the crackdown on other weapons.
We are seeing some links – although it has to be treated with caution because it’s a small data set – of a growing feature between named suspects in acid attacks who also feature in our gang matrix,” Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Craig Mackey tells the Post.
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