PARIS – A student said he warned his teacher to show caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, considered blasphemous by Muslims, days before he was beheaded on a street in Paris in what French President Emmanuel Macron called an “Islamist terrorist attack. “
Martial Lusiela, 15, told NBC News he was “shocked” by the attack Friday afternoon in the middle-class suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of the French capital.
“I was not expecting a beheading – it went too far,” he said, speaking with permission from his parents shortly after the incident, which left his 47-year-old history teacher dead.
The French prosecutor against terrorism, Jean-Francois Ricard, identified the victim as Samuel P.
Ricard told reporters on Saturday that the attacker was an 1
Born in Moscow, the teenager had been given a 10-year stay in France and was not known to intelligence services, Ricard said.
A text claiming responsibility for the attack and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone, he said, adding that the suspect had been seen at the school asking students about the teacher and the principal had also received several threatening phone calls.
Ricard said Samuel had suffered multiple injuries and that an investigation into the murder with a suspected terrorist motive had been initiated.
On Saturday morning, flower arrangements were laid outside the College Bois d’Aulne, where Samuel had taught. Others had signs that said, “I am a teacher.”
Student Luisela said he had been in Samuel’s class earlier this month when the community teacher had shown students the caricatures published by Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015 that Muslims consider blasphemous. Islam forbids images of the Prophet and claims that they lead to idolatry.
“We told the teacher that it was not good to show pictures like this and that it would cause a huge problem,” Lusiela said. “It’s not a caricature you have to show to the class because there are Muslims in the class.”
Nine people were taken into custody for questioning as part of the investigation, including four members of the attacker’s family, a spokesman for France’s prosecutor’s office said on Saturday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Samuel “was the victim of an Islamist terrorist attack” and spoke from the scene late Friday.
“One of our fellow citizens was murdered today because he was teaching, he was teaching students about free speech,” Macron told reporters.
“Our countryman was sincerely attacked,” he said. “They do not win … We will act. Fast and fast. You can trust my determination.”
The attack came as Macron’s government continues to work on a bill to address Islamic radicals. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, Islam being the country’s second largest religion.
Part of this population consists of Chechens. In the 1990s, two wars in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus, triggered a wave of emigration, and many fled to Western Europe.
Muslim leaders in France have widely condemned Friday’s incident, which echoed the attack five years ago in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The outlet published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, freeing divisions that still throw a trajectory over French society.
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Less than a month ago, a man originally from Pakistan used a meat clover to attack and injured two people who were on a cigarette break outside the offices where Charlie Hebdo was based at the time of the 2015 attack.
The controversy over the comics was revived last month when Charlie Hebdo decided to republish them to coincide with the start of the trial against accomplices in the 2015 attack.
Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the killings, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after re-releasing the cartoons.
The magazine said last month that it republished the images to assert its right to freedom of expression and to show that it would not be run in silence by violent attacks. This position was backed by many prominent French politicians and public figures.
Nancy Ing and Matt Bradley reported from Paris. Adela Suliman reported from London.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.