Four children and an adult have been injured in a knife attack in the picturesque town of Annecy in the French Alps.

At least three of the victims are in a critical condition in hospital.

At about 9.45am, a man armed with a knife entered a children’s playground near the town’s famous lake and attacked a group of children aged about three years old as they played

The police say the attack was carried out in a park by a 45-year old Syrian man, who was seeking refugee status.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, tweeted it was an act of “absolute cowardice” and the nation was in shock.

National police, rather than anti-terrorist investigators, are heading the investigation.

Police originally said six children had been injured.