PARIS – A suspect shot by police after the gruesome beheading of a history teacher in an attack near Paris is an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, officials said on Saturday.
The French anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said authorities investigating the murder of Samuel Patti in Conflans-Saint-Honorine on Friday also arrested nine suspects, including the teenager’s grandfather, parents and 17-year-old brother.
Patti was discussing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad with his class, which led to threats and a complaint from a parent, police said. Islam forbids images of the Prophet, claiming that they lead to idolatry. Officials could not be named as they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations.
French counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said an investigation had been opened into a murder on suspicion of a terrorist motive.
Ricard told reporters that the suspect, who received a 1
The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photo of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. Ricard said the suspect was seen at the school questioning students about the teacher, and the principal received several threatening phone calls.
French leaders offered messages of sadness but also of hope after the assassination.
“We will get together, thanks to our spirit of solidarity,” said Laurent Bros., mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
“We are all affected by this heinous murder,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanker said in a video message.
The mourners marched near the school in solidarity, holding signs reading “I am a teacher.”
A police officer said the suspect was shot about 600 meters from the place where Patty died. Police opened fire after he disobeyed orders to drop his weapons and acted in a threatening manner. The official could not be named due to ongoing investigations.
French President Emmanuel Macron went to school on Friday night to condemn what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack.” He called on the nation to stand united against extremism.
“One of our compatriots was killed today because he teaches … freedom of expression, freedom to believe or not to believe,” Macron said.
The Presidential Elysee Palace announced on Saturday that there will be a national ceremony in honor of Patti on the future, about which little details have been revealed so far.
In a video recently posted on Twitter, a man describing himself as the father of a student claims that Patty showed an image of a naked man and told students that he was “the prophet of the Muslims.”
Before showing the images, the teacher asked the Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the room because he planned to show something shocking, the man said. “What was the message he wanted to send to these children?” What is this hatred? The man asked. The AP was unable to independently confirm these allegations.
Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s sparked a wave of emigration, with many Chechens moving 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.
In recent months, there has been accidental violence in France involving the Chechen community, believed to be linked to local criminal activity and equalization of results.
This is the second time in three weeks that terror has engulfed France over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. A young Pakistani man was arrested last month after he attacked two people with a meat grinder in front of the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The weekly was the target of a deadly attack on the newsroom in 2015, and it republished cartoons of the prophet this month to emphasize the right to freedom of information as an open process related to the attack.
The terrorist attack on Friday came as the Macron government worked on a bill to appeal to Islamic radicals, whom authorities say are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.
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