Paris: Nine arrested after history teacher beheaded in suspected terror attack

·3-min read
AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Nine people have been arrested after a history teacher was beheaded in a suspected Islamist terror attack on the outskirts of Paris.

They include the grandparents, parents and teenage brother of the suspected attacker, an 18-year-old Chechen man who was shot dead by police 600 yards from the scene of Friday’s attack .

The victim, named in reports as Samuel Paty, was killed on on a street in Conflans Saint-Honorine, northwest of Paris, at about 5pm.

He had previously received threats after discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class earlier this month, authorities said.

On a visit to the school president Emmanuel Macron labelled the gruesome killing as an “Islamist terrorist attack” and urged the nation to stand united against extremism.

Mr Macron visited the scene of the crime after a crisis meeting (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Macron visited the scene of the crime after a crisis meeting (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught … the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.”

A parent of one of the pupils in the class said the teacher asked Muslim students to raise their hands and to leave the classroom before they were taught about the image.

She said: "My son understood right away - the evening he came home, he understood right away that it was not to discriminate.

"He told me, no it was not to offend us, it was images that he didn't want us to see. My son understood that at no moment he [the teacher] had lacked respect."

Officials said that one parent had filed a complaint about the teacher.

The suspected attacker was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun – which fires plastic pellets – and police opened fire after he failed to respond to orders to put down his weapons, and acted in a threatening manner.

Witnesses heard the attacker shout Allahu Akbar, or God is greater, Reuters reported. Officials said he did not have a child at the school and is not thought to have been on any terror watchlist.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer tweeted that the republic had been attacked through the "despicable assassination of one of its servants".

He added that "unity and firmness are the only answers to the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism".

Police guarding the scene of the attack in a northwest Paris suburb (Getty Images)
Police guarding the scene of the attack in a northwest Paris suburb (Getty Images)

Thibault Humbert, mayor of the nearby suburb of Éragny-sur-Oise, said: “This was an exceptionally violent and horrifying attack. The police must be commended for intervening with such speed.”

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: "My thoughts are with the people of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine this evening following reports of a truly horrific attack. The UK stands in solidarity with France at this time."

It is the second time in three weeks that terror has struck France linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The attack took place in Conflans St Honorine yesterday (REUTERS)
The attack took place in Conflans St Honorine yesterday (REUTERS)

Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after stabbing two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The weekly was the target of a deadly newsroom attack in 2015, and it republished caricatures of the prophet this month to underscore the right to freedom of information as a trial opened linked to that attack.

Friday’s terror attack came as Mr Macron’s government works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.

France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, and Islam is the country’s second-most popular religion.

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French police shoot dead suspect who 'beheaded teacher' in Paris