France opens terror probe after teacher beheaded in Paris suburb

Police officers secure the area near the scene of the stabbing attack in Conflans-Saint-Honorine on October 16, 2020.
Police officers secure the area near the scene of the stabbing attack in Conflans-Saint-Honorine on October 16, 2020. © Charles Platiau, Reuters

A man armed with a knife on Friday beheaded a history teacher in front of his school in a suburb of Paris in what President Emmanuel Macron said was an "Islamist terrorist attack". The assailant was shot dead by police.


Four people related to the assailant, including a minor, have been arrested, according to a judicial source.

The teacher had recently discussed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class, according to police and media sources.

France's anti-terror prosecutor said it was investigating the fatal attack, which took place in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb north-west of Paris, at around 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday.

President Emmanuel Macron headed to the scene following an emergency meeting at the French interior ministry.

Decrying an "Islamist terrorist attack", the French president said the whole country stood united behind its teachers.

"A citizen has been murdered today because he was a teacher and because he taught freedom of expression," Macron said near the school where the teacher was killed.

"Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not prevail," Macron added.

Secularism class

The attacker, whose identity has not been established, was shot by police as they tried to arrest him a few streets away and later died of his injuries.

Police said witnesses had heard him shout "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great".

The grisly murder was an attack on the French nation as a whole, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Twitter.

"Our unity and our resolve are the only responses faced with the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism," the minister wrote.

Reporting from the scene of the attack, FRANCE 24's Julia Kim said the teacher had recently given a class on secularism and the controversy surrounding the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

The teacher reportedly "asked his Muslim students to leave the room because he was going to show some cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that could have caused offence," Kim said, adding that this had angered some parents.

Shadow of Charlie Hebdo killings

Last month, a 25-year old Pakistani man attacked two people with a meat cleaver over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which are considered by Muslims to be blasphemous.

The attacker seriously injured two employees of a TV production agency, whose offices are on the same block that used to house the satirical weekly. Both survived.

That attack came three weeks into an ongoing trial of suspected accomplices of the authors of the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, which also saw a policewoman gunned down in the street.

Seventeen people were killed in the three-day spree that heralded a wave of Islamist violence in France that has so far claimed more than 250 lives.

Al Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after it republished the cartoons at the start of the trial.

The magazine said last month it published the cartoons to assert its right to freedom of expression, and to show it would not be cowed into silence by violent attacks. That stance was backed by many prominent French politicians and public figures.


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