A suspect shot by police after the gruesome beheading of a history teacher in onenear Paris was an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, officials said Saturday.
France’s terrorism prosecutor said authorities investigating the murder of Samuel Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday also arrested nine suspects, including the teenager’s grandfather, parents and 17-year-old brother.
Paty had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, leading to threats and a complaint from a parent, police officers said. Islam forbids images of the Prophet and claims that they lead to idolatry. The officials could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations.
The French prosecutor against terrorism, Jean-Francois Ricard, said an investigation into the murder with a suspected terrorist motive had been launched.
Ricard told reporters that the suspect, who had been given a 1
The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. Ricard said the suspect had been seen at the school asking students about the teacher and the principal had received several threatening phone calls.
French leaders offered messages of sadness, but also of hope after the killing.
“We are coming together thanks to our spirit of solidarity,” said Laurent Brosse, Mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
“We are all affected, all affected by this heinous murder,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said in a video message.
Mourners marched near the school in solidarity, holding signs with the text “I am a teacher.”
A police officer said the suspect was shot about 600 yards from Paty’s death. Police opened fire after he did not respond to orders to put his arms down and acted threateningly. The official could not be named due to ongoing investigations.
French President Emmanuel Macron went to school Friday night to condemn what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack.” He called on the nation to stand united against extremism.
“One of our countrymen was murdered today because he learned … the freedom of speech, the freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said.
The presidential election Elysee Palace announced on Saturday that there will be a national ceremony on a future date as a tribute to Paty, about whom so far there are only a few details.
In a video recently posted on Twitter, a man who described himself as the father of a student claimed that Paty had shown a picture of a naked man and told students that it was “the Muslim prophet.”
Before the teacher showed the pictures, the teacher asked Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the room because he was planning to show something shocking, the man said. “What was the message he wanted to send these children? What is this hatred?” asked the man. The AP has not been able to independently confirm these allegations.
Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s triggered a wave of emigration with many Chechens heading for Western Europe. France has offered asylum to many Chechens since the Russian military waged war against Islamist separatists in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s.
France has seen occasional violence involving its Chechen community in recent months, believed to be linked to local criminal activity and score-fixing.
This is the second time in three weeks that terror has hit France, linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after attacking two people with a meat clover outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
This week was the target of a deadly editorial attack in 2015, and it again released the Prophet’s caricatures this month to emphasize the right to freedom of information as a lawsuit opened in connection with this attack.
Friday’s terrorist attack came as Macron’s government is working on a bill to address Islamic radicals that authorities claim is creating a parallel society outside the French republic.