Following the assassination of a French teacher near Paris, the prosecutor of the counter-terrorism office presented new details today. The attacker comes from Chechnya and has had refugee status in France since the spring, but so far he has not been suspected by intelligence services. Prior to the attack, the teacher was the target of threats due to Mohammed’s drawings, which he showed during class.
The attacker - a Chechen born in 2002 - was armed with a knife and an air pistol, and police found a bloodied knife with a 35-centimeter-long blade nearby, prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard explained at a press conference today.
The victim, 47-year-old history professor Samuel Paty, had numerous stab wounds on his body and was beheaded, the prosecutor said. The attacker was waiting for him in an ambush as he was returning home from the high school where he was teaching. Prior to that, the attacker allegedly called on students to show him the victim.
As Ricard explained, both the teacher and the school were threatened before the attack. The teacher recently showed controversial drawings in class during a discussion on freedom of expression and the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo magazine. The father of one of the students then called on social media to mobilize against the teacher and also complained to the school management.
The alleged perpetrator also posted a photo of the victim online after the murder. In a tweet in which he described the French president as a »leader of infidels«, he also wrote that he had killed »one of his dogs who dared to humiliate Mohammed«, the prosecution said, according to French media reports. He investigates this act as an attack with a terrorist motive.
Nine people are in custody in connection with the attack - including the attacker's parents and grandfather, the student's father, who protested the teacher's actions, and whose half-sister joined the Islamic State in Syria in 2014, and a few more people from the perpetrator’s circle.
In France, there are horrified reactions to the event. Macron, who visited the scene of the attack as early as Friday, said the teacher was killed because he was »teaching freedom of expression«. »They won’t win, they won’t divide us,« he stressed.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, who met with teachers' union leaders today, said in a statement that Paty had been killed by »enemies of freedom« and that France would never succumb to terrorism and intimidation.
In parliament, members of parliament stood up in honor of the teacher and condemned the »horrific terrorist attack«. Prime Minister Jean Castex, however, tweeted that »our teachers will continue to awaken the critical spirit of the citizens of the republic in order to free them from all totalitarianism,« according to the BBC.
In front of the building of the Bois d'Aulne high school, where the murdered professor taught, today many parents and students are laying white roses, reports the French news agency AFP.