Man who decapitated French teacher had been in contact with 'Russian-speaking jihadist in Syria'

David Chazan
·2-min read
People lay flowers at the middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images
People lay flowers at the middle school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images

The Chechen refugee who beheaded a French teacher after he showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was in contact with a jihadist in Syria, it emerged on Thursday.

The news came after seven people, including two teenaged schoolchildren, were charged with terrorism offences in connection with the murder. Abdoullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, attacked Samuel Paty with a butcher’s knife as he left his school.

Moscow-born Anzorov, who arrived in France aged six with his family, established contact with a still unidentified Russian-speaking Islamist fighter in Syria in September via Instagram, sources close to the investigation said. 

Le Parisien newspaper reported that the jihadist was located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a jihadist holdout in north-western Syria.

Anzorov sent an audio message in Russian after the killing, saying he had “avenged the prophet” and expressing the desire to be a martyr. Minutes later, he was shot dead by police.

The message, obtained by Agence France-Presse, contained several references to the Koran and Islamic State. It was posted in a video with tweets in which Anzorov confessed to the murder. One showed the victim’s severed head.

The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion and heightened tensions in France. The authorities have raided the homes of dozens of suspected Islamists, banned two radical groups and closed a mosque in a Paris suburb for six months.

Several other mosques that have received threats since the killing have been placed under police protection.

Among the seven people charged as accomplices in a terrorist murder are two pupils, aged 14 and 15, accused of accepting up to €350 (£316) to point out the teacher to the killer. Also charged is Brahim Chnina, the father of a pupil, who led a social media campaign against Mr Paty, 47.