A suspect was shot by police after the shocking beheading of a history teacher in anear Paris was an 18-year-old Chechen man born in Moscow, officials said Saturday.
The French anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office 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 discussed Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures of Islam in his class, leading to threats and a complaint from a parent, police officials said. Islam forbids the images of the prophets, insisting that they lead to idolatry. Officers could not be named because they were not allowed to discuss the ongoing investigation.
French anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard says an investigation into the murder of a suspected terrorist motive has been opened.
Ricard told reporters that the suspect, who was granted a 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March and was not known for his intellectual services, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fired plastic pellets.
The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. Ricard said the suspect was seen at the school asking students about the teacher, and the principal received several threatening phone calls.
French leaders offered messages of grief but also hope after the assassination.
“We will bring ourselves together, thanks to our spirit of unity,” said Laurent Brosse, mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
“We are all affected, we are all touched by this heinous murder,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said in a video message.
The mourners marched near the school in solidarity, holding signs that read “I am a teacher.”
A police officer said the suspect was shot nearly 600 meters (yards) from Paty’s death. Police fired after he failed to respond to orders to lower his arms and act in a threatening manner. The officer could not be named due to ongoing investigations.
French President Emmanuel Macron went to school on Friday night to denounce what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack.” He urged the country to stand united against extremism.
“One of our countrymen was killed today because he taught … freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or disbelieve,” Macron said.
The presidential Elysee Palace announced on Saturday that there will be a national ceremony at a future date in honor of Paty, which about a few details emerged.
In a video recently posted on Twitter, a man describing himself as the father of a student stated that Paty showed an image of a naked man and told the students it was ” prophet of the Muslims. ”
Before showing the images, the teacher asked the young Muslims to raise their hands and leave the room because he intended to show something surprising, the man said. “What message does he want to send to these children? What is this hatred?” the man asked. The AP has not independently confirmed these claims.
Chechnya is the largest Muslim republic of Russia in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s triggered a shift, with many Chechens heading to western Europe. France has offered asylum to many Chechens since Russia’s military war began against Islamist separatists in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s.
France has seen occasional violence involving the Chechen community in recent months, believed to be linked to local criminal activity and scoring.
This is the second time in three weeks that fear has struck France linked to the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after attacking two people with a meat cleaver outside the former office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Weekly was the target of a deadly attack on the newsroom in 2015, and the prophet’s caricatures were republished this month to emphasize the right to freedom of information while opening a trial linked to that attack.
The terrorist attack on Friday came as the Macron government was working on a bill to address Islamic radicals, which authorities claim creates a parallel society outside the French Republic’s values.