A history teacher was decapitated in a suburb of Paris on Friday in a knife attack being treated by police as an act of Islamist terror.
The teacher had recently shown satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his secondary school class in a discussion on freedom of expression at a school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of the capital, according to police sources quoted by French media.
Police said they shot dead the suspected assailant, who was still carrying his weapon, in the street nearby. He was reported to be an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin and to have shouted “Allahu akbar!” (God is great) before being killed.
President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to crack down on Islamist extremism and “separatism” in French suburbs, travelled to the scene of the attack on Friday night and called for national unity against Islamist terror.
“They shall not succeed. Obscurantism and the violence that goes with it will not win,” he said. “They won’t divide us. That’s what they want and we must hold firm together.”
Jean-Michel Blanquer, education minister, condemned what he called the “shameful” murder of a teacher. “It is the republic that has been attacked,” he said. “Our unity and firmness are the only responses to the monstrousness of Islamist terrorism. We will stand up to it.” French politicians of left and right condemned the “barbarity” of the murder.
Friday’s murder, at about 5pm, appeared to be linked to the ongoing trial in Paris of 14 people accused of involvement in a terror attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
They are charged with helping two extremists who killed 12 people when they stormed the newsroom to take revenge for cartoons it had published of Mohammed. It was the start of a grim year for terrorism in France in which 149 people died in shootings and suicide bombings.
After the start of the trial last month, two employees of a press agency were injured in an attack with a meat cleaver outside Charlie Hebdo’s old offices. Zaher Hassan Mahmoud, a Pakistani man, was charged with attempted terrorist assassinations.
The anti-immigrant, extreme rightwing Rassemblement National party immediately condemned the latest attack and said force should be used to crush Islamists.
“A teacher decapitated for having shown the #CharlieHebdo caricatures,” party leader Marine Le Pen said on Twitter. “We have reached this unbearable level of barbarism. Islamism is bringing war to us: we must expel it from our country by force.”
In a speech earlier this month in Yvelines — the department where Conflans-Sainte-Honorine is located — Mr Macron announced plans to curb the spread of radical Islamism with strict new controls on religious, cultural and sporting associations and a ban on home schooling.
Mr Macron said 32 terrorist attacks had been foiled by the security services since the start of his presidency three years ago. He also noted that in Yvelines alone 172 people were being monitored for suspected violent radicalisation, while 70 youths had left the department for Syria as jihadis.
Mr Macron’s government is finalising a draft law designed to reimpose French secular republican values in districts heavily populated by Arab and African Muslim immigrants seen as vulnerable to the influence of Islamists.
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