Three children, a woman and a man have been injured to varying degrees in a multiple stabbing next to a school in the center of Dublin. The perpetrator of the attack was subdued and disarmed by a group of pedestrians before being arrested by local police.

The motive for the attack is currently unknown, which occurred at 1.30 in the afternoon at the door of the Choláiste Mhuire school, in Parnell Square East, coinciding with the departure of the 170 primary school students. Police described what happened as “a serious security incident” and temporarily cordoned off the area around the center.

“The children were leaving class and suddenly one of them fell to the ground, and then another, and another,” a witness told the Irish Independent newspaper. “The aggressor then ran away, but many people jumped on him and managed to arrest him.”

A witness, Siobhan Kearney, told RTE how several of those who helped disarm the attacker went even further and kicked him when he was on the ground: “An American lady and I formed a ring around him to prevent the people beat him while the police arrived.

A Garda spokeswoman later confirmed the arrest of the suspect and the admission to hospital of five people, two of them – a seven-year-old girl and a woman – seriously injured and two children and a man with lighter injuries. The police have not made public the motive of the attacker, who is being questioned in custody.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed his “shock” and issued a statement asking Dubliners for calm: “A number of people have been injured, and several of them are children. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. The “Police have detained the suspect and are following a defined line of investigation.”

Liam Geraghty, superintendent of the Dublin police, assured that the attacker, in his 50s, acted alone and is receiving medical treatment. The police spokesman assured that he is following “a very clear line of investigation” and that investigators are confident that “this is not an incident related to terrorism.”

“We still have to determine why the attack occurred,” admitted Geraghty, who reported that the knife used by the attacker was thrown across the street by one of the men who managed to disarm him. The police are questioning school staff and parents and have asked witnesses to the attack to send the images that were captured with cell phones to reconstruct the events.

Hours after the incident, clashes broke out between the police and a group of protesters who threw bottles and blunt objects and set fire to a patrol car. Chief Commissioner Drew Harris asked the population for “calm” and attributed “the unpleasant scenes of violence” to the “misinformation” that has circulated on the networks about the nationality of the aggressor.

Harris attributed the incidents to “a lunatic faction of hooligans” who shouted “Kick them out!” in reaction to the attacker’s alleged foreign status. The riots spread from Pannell Street to O’Connell Street and forced the intervention of riot police in the city center.