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Teacher decapitated in gruesome 'terror attack' near Paris

October 16, 2020

A suspect has been shot dead after a brutal murder on the outskirts of Paris. The victim was a teacher who had reportedly recently shown caricatures of Muhammad in class.

French police officers stand guard a street in Eragny
Image: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP

Man killed near Paris, anti-terror probe begun

French police shot a man dead on Friday after he allegedly decapitated a teacher near Paris. 

The suspect allegedly beheaded 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty at about 5 p.m. in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris.

Officers were called to the area after reports of a suspicious man loitering near the victim's school. They found the dead victim and saw the alleged perpetrator nearby. He was then shot dead after allegedly threatening officers.

The suspect is alleged to be an 18-year-old born in Moscow and originating from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus.

Read more here for the latest on the investigation:  French knife attack suspect identified as Chechen teen

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron said the victim was murdered because he was a teacher and taught freedom of expressionImage: Abdulmonam Eassa/Pool/Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron described the incident as an "Islamist terror attack" and urged the nation to unite.

He said the victim was murdered because he was a teacher and taught freedom of expression.

"The whole country stands behind its teachers. Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not win," Macron said after visiting the scene.

Prosecutors launch anti-terror probe

Police told reporters that the victim had recently held a class on freedom of speech in which he showed caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad — a lesson that had prompted a complaint against the teacher.

The father of a 13-year-old pupil told France Inter that the teacher gave Muslim students the option of leaving the room before showing the images. The teacher was not "condesending or disrespectful," he said. 

French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the incident as "a murder linked to a terrorist organization" and related to a "criminal association with terrorists."

Read moreEmmanuel Macron's plans to protect French values alienate Muslims

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin cut short his trip to Morocco and returned to Paris. He later announced he had set up a crisis center to deal with the attack. 

Police officers secure the area near the scene of a stabbing attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans Sainte-Honorine
The attack took place in the suburb of Conflans Sainte-Honorine, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the center of ParisImage: Charles Platiau/Reuters

'Unbelievably violent'

Local Mayor Eragny Thibault Humbert told Europe 1: "It's unbelievably violent."

"It is necessary to underline the speed with which the police officers neutralized the individual," he said.

A Twitter account purportedly operated by the killer posted a gruesome, unverified image of the killing and claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after the incident. The account was quickly suspended.

The Russian embassy in Paris later requested information about the suspect from French authorities, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Read moreCharlie Hebdo and the demise of caricature

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Twitter said the incident would strengthen the fight against radical Islam. "Our unity and our resolve are the only responses faced with the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism," the minister wrote.

The President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand said on Twitter: "The assassination of a history teacher is an attack on freedom of expression and the values of the Republic."

"Islamism is waging war on us," wrote right-wing leader Marine Le Pen following the killing. 

Some Muslim leaders condemned the killing, which was perceived by many public figures as an attack on the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression.

Deadly attacks in France

France has seen a spate of deadly attacks in recent years, with over 250 people killed since 2015. The latest incident comes just weeks after another knife attack on the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which injured two people.

In 2015, several staff members at Charlie Hebdo were killed after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The paper recently republished the caricatures.

kw,aw/rs (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)