PARIS (AP) – A history teacher who opened a discussion with high school students about the cartoons of the prophet of Islam Muhammad was beheaded on a French street on Friday and police shot dead the suspected murderer, authorities said.
The French anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation into a suspected murder for terrorist purposes, the prosecution said.
The teacher’s horrific murder took place in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine while the suspect was killed by police near Eragny. The towns are located in the Val d’Oise region to the north-west of Paris.
President Emmanuel Macron was visiting the region.
A police official said the suspect, armed with a knife and an airsoft gun – which shoots plastic pellets – was shot dead about 600 meters (yards) from where the teacher was killed after failing to respond to orders to give up, and acted threateningly.
The teacher had received threats after he opened a discussion “for a debate” on the cartoons about 10 days ago, the police official told The Associated Press. A student’s parent had lodged a complaint against the teacher, another police official said, adding that the alleged killer did not have children in school. The identity of the suspect has not been made public.
The two officials could not be named as they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigations.
“We didn’t see it coming,” Conflans resident Remi Tell told CNews television. He described the city as peaceful.
It was the second terrorism-related incident since the opening of an ongoing trial over the January 2015 newsroom massacre at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet of Islam.
At the start of the trial, the newspaper republished cartoons of the prophet to emphasize the right to free speech. Exactly three weeks ago, a young Pakistani man was arrested after stabbing two people outside the newspaper’s former offices who had sustained non-life threatening injuries. The 18-year-old told police he was shocked by the publication of the cartoons.
The incident came as Macron’s government is working on a bill to tackle radical Islamists who authorities say are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.
Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Lyon contributed to this report.