PARIS (Reuters) – A college history teacher in France was stabbed to death near the school where, earlier this month, he showed his students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, deemed blasphemous by Muslims, have French officials said Friday.
The attacker was shot dead by a police patrol a few streets from the scene of the attack on Friday afternoon, in a residential suburb northwest of Paris.
“One of our fellow citizens was assassinated today because he was teaching, he was teaching students freedom of expression,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the scene of the attack.
“Our compatriot was blatantly attacked, was the victim of an Islamist terrorist attack,” Macron said. “They won’t win… We will act. Firmly, and quickly. You can count on my determination. “
The incident echoed the attack five years ago on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, triggering divisions that still cast a veil on French society.
Friday’s assassination, targeting a teacher, has been interpreted by many public figures as an attack on the essence of the French state, with the values it espouses of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of speech.
“Tonight, it is the Republic which is attacked”, wrote the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer in a tweet.
The victim of Friday’s attack suffered multiple knife wounds to the neck, according to a police official. A police source said the teacher was beheaded in the attack.
French channel BFMTV reported that the alleged attacker was 18 years old and born in Moscow. The police did not name the attacker or his victim.
A police source said witnesses heard the attacker shout “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is the greatest”.
The attack took place in the street in front of the college where the victim worked, in the suburb of Conflans Sainte-Honorine. The neighborhood is a middle class neighborhood with many residents commuting to work in Paris.
According to French media, the slain teacher showed students the cartoons earlier this month as part of a civic education class.
A Twitter thread posted on October 9 contained a video of a man who said his daughter, a Muslim, was one of the students in the class and that she was shocked and upset by the teacher’s actions.
The man in the video urged Twitter users to complain to authorities and have the professor removed from his post. Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video.
France has seen a series of violent attacks by Islamist militants in recent years, including the Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015, as well as bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theater and in sites around Paris, which killed 130 people.
Less than a month ago, a man from Pakistan used a meat cleaver to attack and injure two people on a cigarette break outside the offices where Charlie Hebdo was based at the time of the 2015 attack.
The issue of the cartoons was revived last month when Charlie Hebdo decided to repost them to coincide with the start of the trial of accomplices in the 2015 attack.
Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the killings, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after reposting the cartoons.
The magazine said last month that it published to assert his right to free speech and to show that he would not be intimidated by violent attacks. This position has been supported by many leading French politicians and public figures.
Reacting to Friday’s attack in front of the school, Charlie Hebdo wrote on his Twitter account: “Intolerance has crossed a new threshold and does not seem to give in to anything by imposing its terror on our country.