PARIS – A knife-wielding man beheaded a teacher near a school in a suburb north of Paris on Friday afternoon and was later shot by police, officials said in a confrontation that quickly escalated into a trauma that imprisoned the whole of France.
A police officer with knowledge of the attack confirmed that French media reported that the victim was a history teacher at a local school who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class. The officer requested anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.
France’s terrorism prosecutors immediately took over the investigation, and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin canceled a trip to Morocco to fly back to Paris. President Emmanuel Macron walked to the site, according to the Élysée, the president̵
A little other information was immediately available about the victim, the attacker or the attack itself that took place in the suburb of Eragny. But the underlying themes evoked France’s recent history of terrorist attacks.
The beheading came three weeks after a knife-wielding man injured two people in Paris near the site of the former Charlie Hebdo office – the site of a terrorist attack in 2015 targeting the satirical newspaper for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which became the focus of a criminal trial.
On Friday, a police official told the French television station BFM that witnesses had seen the attacker in Eragny cut the victim’s neck and shout “Allahu akbar” – God is greatest.
National police were called, officials said, and after discovering the beheaded victim, the attacker confronted nearby a school.
He gossiped a large knife and threatened the officers, and after refusing to surrender, he was shot 10 times, they said.
A prosecutor from the country’s special anti-terrorism unit was immediately sent for investigation, officials said.
The killing of the teacher quickly gained national dimensions Friday night. Representatives of the French parliament stood up to “honor the victim’s memory,” said the president of the session, parliamentary deputy Hugues Renson.
“The assassination of a history teacher is an attack on freedom of expression and the values of the republic,” National Assembly President Richard Ferrand said on Twitter. “To attack a teacher is to attack all French citizens and freedom,” he said.
“A teacher was killed just for doing his job,” Sophie Venetitay, a teachers’ union official, told BFM. She said the teacher taught a course on free speech where the caricatures were shown, “and that seems to have been the origin of this tragedy.”