Police operations underway in France after the beheading of a teacher

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Police at the scene where officers shot dead a man after killing a college teacher in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, October 16, 2020.

Kiran Ridley / Getty Images

The French interior minister said on Monday that police operations were underway against dozens of people who allegedly issued messages of support for the attacker after the beheading of a history professor near Paris.

Gerald Darmanin told French radio Europe 1 that at least 80 cases of hate speech have been reported since Friday’s attack.

Samuel Paty was beheaded in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of Paris, by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, born in Moscow, who was later shot dead by police. Police officials said Paty discussed the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad with his class, which led to threats.

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French President Emmanuel Macron held a defense council on Sunday at the Elysee Palace. The government will step up school safety when classes resume on November 2 after a two-week vacation, Macron’s office said.

A national tribute is due to Paty on Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered across France on Sunday to support freedom of expression and in memory of the murdered 47-year-old teacher.

French authorities said they arrested 11 people after the murder.

Darmanin said they include a student’s father and an Islamist activist who both “clearly issued a fatwa,” or religious decision, against the teacher.

A man who said he was the father of a student posted a video on social media claiming that Paty showed the picture of a naked man and told students he was the “prophet of Muslims ”. He called on other angry parents to contact him and relay the message.

Darmanin said authorities are also investigating around 50 associations suspected of promoting hate speech. Some will be dissolved, he said.

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The president of the Conference of Imams of France, Hassen Chalghoumi, declared “we are injured, we condemn this barbaric act”, on the French news channel BFM TV. “Samuel is a martyr for freedom.”

“Barbarism has no place in schools or elsewhere in France,” he said.

Chalghoumi, who is an imam in Drancy, a northeastern suburb of Paris, said he had received death threats and insults on social media in recent days from radical Islamists.

Judicial authorities have opened an investigation into the suspected terrorist murder. At least four of those detained are family members of the perpetrator, who had obtained a 10-year residence in France as a refugee in March. He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which shoots plastic pellets.

Counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said a text claiming responsibility and a photo of the victim were found on the attacker’s phone.

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