A suspect in the beheading of a teacher in France was a Chechen teenager

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PARIS – A suspect shot dead by police after the beheading of a history teacher near Paris was an 18-year-old Chechen refugee unknown to intelligence services who posted a sinister allegation of responsibility on social media minutes after the attack, officials said on Saturday. France’s counterterrorism prosecution said authorities investigating Samuel Paty’s murder in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday arrested nine suspects, including the teenager’s grandfather, his parents and his 17-year-old brother.

Paty had discussed the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad with his class, which led to threats, police officials said. Islam forbids images of the prophet, claiming that they lead to idolatry. The officials could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigations.

French counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said an investigation into suspected terrorist murder had been opened.

Ricard told reporters that the Moscow-born suspect, who obtained a 10-year residence in France as a refugee in March, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which shoots plastic pellets.

Her half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Ricard said. He did not give her name and we do not know where she is now.

The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photo of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. He also confirmed that a Twitter account under the name of Abdoulakh A belonged to the suspect. He posted a photo of the decapitated head minutes after the attack with the message “I executed one of the hellhounds who dared to shoot Muhammad down. ”

Ricard said the suspect was seen at the school questioning students about the teacher and the principal received several threatening phone calls.

Mourners marched near the school on Saturday in solidarity, holding signs reading “I am a teacher”. “We will rise up together, thanks to our spirit of solidarity,” said Laurent Brosse, mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

A police official said the suspect was shot about 600 meters from where Paty died. Police opened fire after he failed to respond to orders to lay down his arms and acted threateningly. The official could not be named due to ongoing investigations.

French President Emmanuel Macron went to school on Friday evening to denounce what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack”. He urged the nation to unite against extremism.

“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught… freedom of speech, the freedom to believe or not to believe,” Macron said.

The Presidential Elysee Palace announced that there would be a national ceremony at a later date in honor of Paty.

In a video posted recently on Twitter, a man describing himself as the father of a student claimed that Paty showed the picture of a naked man and told the students that he was the “prophet of Muslims” .

Before showing the footage, the teacher asked the Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the room as he was planning to show something shocking, the man said. “What message did he want to send to these children? What is this hatred? The man asked. The AP has not been able to independently confirm these claims.

Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s sparked a wave of emigration, with many Chechens heading to 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.

Chechnya’s regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who used massive federal grants to rebuild the province and quelled any resistance with his feared security forces, condemned the teacher’s murder but also warned against insults to feelings of Muslims.

“We condemn this act of terror and offer our condolences to the relatives of the man who was killed,” Kadyrov said on his blog. “While expressing myself categorically against any manifestation of terrorism, I also recommend not to provoke believers, not to offend their religious feelings. ”

He went on to criticize French society for what he described as manifestations of “provocative” disrespect for Islamic values. “When France has an appropriate state institution for interethnic and interfaith relations, then the country will have a healthy society. ”

Kadyrov noted that the Chechen suspect only visited the area once when he was 2 years old.

This is the second time in three weeks that terror has struck France linked to the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Last month, a young Pakistani man was arrested after assaulting two people with a meat cleaver outside the former Charlie Hebdo offices.

The weekly was the target of a deadly attack in the newsroom in 2015, and it reposted the prophet’s cartoons this month to highlight the right to freedom of information as a trial broke. open linked to this attack.

Friday’s terror attack came as Macron’s government is working on a bill to tackle Islamic radicals, who authorities say are creating a parallel society outside the values ​​of the French Republic.

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Elaine Ganley contributed to this report.

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