Paris (AP) – A suspect shot dead by police after the horrific beheading of a history professor in an attack near Paris on Friday was an 18-year-old Chechen, police said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecution said authorities investigating the gruesome murder of the man in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine also arrested nine suspects, including the attacker’s grandparents, parents and 17-year-old brother.
The teacher had discussed the cartoons of the prophet of Islam Muhammad with his class, authorities said.
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 experienced occasional violence involving its Chechen community in recent months, allegedly linked to local criminal activity and settling of scores.A police official said the armed suspect in Friday’s attack was shot dead about 600 meters from where the professor was killed. He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun – which shoots plastic pellets – and police opened fire after failing to respond to orders to give up and acted threateningly. The official could not be named because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigations.
French President Emmanuel Macron quickly arrived at 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 French anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation for murder with an alleged terrorist motive, the prosecution said.
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 stabbing two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
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 fight Islamic radicals, who authorities say are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.
The teacher had received threats after opening a “for debate” discussion of the cartoons about 10 days ago, a police official told The Associated Press. A student’s parent had filed a complaint against the teacher, another police official said.