French police operations underway after beheading of teacher

Updated: 20 October, 2020 09:27 IST | Agencies | Paris

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the attacker's phone

People gather near flowers layed outside the Bois d'Aulne secondary school in homage to slain history teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an attacker for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in his civics class in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Pic/AFP
People gather near flowers layed outside the Bois d'Aulne secondary school in homage to slain history teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an attacker for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in his civics class in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Pic/AFP

France's interior minister said on Monday that police operations are underway into dozens of people who allegedly issued messages of support for the attacker after the beheading of a history teacher near Paris.

Gerald Darmanin said on 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, northwest of Paris, by a 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, who was later shot dead by police. Police officials said Paty had discussed caricatures of Islam's Prophet with his class, leading to threats.

French President Emmanuel Macron held a defence council on Sunday at the Elysee presidential palace. The government will reinforce security at schools when classes resume on Nov. 2 after two weeks of holidays, Macron's office said.

A national homage is to be held for Paty on Wednesday. Dozens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Sunday across France in support of freedom of speech and in memory of the slain 47-year-old teacher.

French authorities said they detained 11 people following the killing. Darmanin said they include the father of a student and an Islamist activist who both "obviously launched a fatwa," or religious ruling, against the teacher. Darmanin said authorities were also looking into about 50 associations suspected of encouraging hate speech. Some will be dissolved, he said.

The president of the Conference of imams in France, Hassen Chalghoumi, said "we are hurt, we are condemning this barbaric act," on French news broadcaster BFM TV. "Samuel is a martyr of freedom." "Barbarism has no place in schools nor elsewhere in France," he said.

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

Justice authorities opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive. At least four of those detained are family members of the attacker, who had been granted 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March. He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets. Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the attacker's phone.

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First Published: 20 October, 2020 08:04 IST

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