A French teacher who had recently shown students cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammed ﷺ was beheaded outside his school on Friday, in what President Emmanuel Macron called an “Islamist terrorist attack”.
The assailant, whose identity has not been established, was shot by police as they tried to arrest him and later died of his injuries, police said.
The attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) as police confronted him, a police source said.
France has seen a wave of violence since the 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in the capital.
French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the assault as “a murder linked to a terrorist organisation”.
The attack happened on the outskirts of Paris at around 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) near the middle school where the teacher worked in Conflans Saint-Honorine, a northwestern suburb around 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the centre of the French capital.
The killing bore the hallmarks of “an Islamist terrorist attack”, Macron said as he visited the scene. Visibly moved, the president said that “the entire nation” stood ready to defend teachers and that “obscurantism will not win”.
Four people, including a minor, have been arrested, a judicial source told AFP early Saturday. All were related to the assailant, the source added.
The victim was a history teacher who recently showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed ﷺ as part of a class discussion on ‘freedom of expression’, police said.
A parent of a pupil at the school said the teacher might have stirred “controversy” by asking Muslim pupils to leave the room before showing the cartoons.
“According to my son, he was super nice, super friendly, super kind,” the parent, Nordine Chaouadi, told AFPTV.
The teacher “simply said to the Muslim children: ‘Leave, I don’t want it to hurt your feelings.’ That’s what my son told me,” the parent said.
According to a judicial source, an identity card found on the assailant indicated he was born in Moscow in 2002, although investigators were waiting for formal identification.
Police said they were investigating a tweet posted from an account that showed a picture of the teacher’s head, and which has since been shut down. It was unclear whether the message, which contained a threat against Macron — described as “the leader of the infidels” — had been posted by the attacker, they said. (Agencies)