PARIS — A knife-wielding man decapitated a instructor close to a college in a suburb north of Paris on Friday afternoon and was later shot useless by the police, officers mentioned, abruptly hitting France with a nationwide trauma that revived reminiscences of latest terrorist assaults.
A police officer and fogeys with data of the assault confirmed French media studies that the sufferer was a historical past instructor on the college who had proven caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a category on freedom of expression, which had incited anger amongst some Muslim households.
The instructor, nonetheless unidentified by Friday night, was instantly depicted as a martyr to freedom of expression throughout the political spectrum. Representatives in France’s Parliament rose to their ft to “honor the victim’s memory,” because the president of the session, parliamentary deputy Hugues Renson, declared. And President Emmanuel Macron hurried to the scene of the assault Friday night time.
“This was an attempt to strike down the republic,” Mr. Macron mentioned.
Seizing on the symbolic nature of an assault towards a highschool instructor, and reprising anti-Islamist themes he has currently emphasised, Mr. Macron mentioned the instructor had been “the victim of a terrorist, Islamist attack.”
The instructor was struck down “because he taught, because he taught the liberty of expression, the liberty to believe and not believe,” the French president mentioned in a quick televised deal with.
France’s antiterrorism prosecutors instantly took over the investigation of the assault, which occurred on the junction of two adjoining Paris suburbs, Eragny and Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Much remained obscure Friday night time within the absence of an official police narrative. But the underlying themes of what was identified conjured up France’s latest historical past of terrorist assaults: an assailant rigorously selecting a sufferer thought to represent an offense towards Islam.
Turmoil on the college over the instructor’s methodology of instruction — Mr. Macron alluded to this in his remarks — had evidently preceded the killing. “We have seen the principal, who in these last weeks has withstood with remarkable courage a great deal of pressure,” Mr. Macron mentioned.
In a video that extensively circulated on YouTube earlier than the assault, a Muslim dad or mum on the instructor’s college, College du Bois-d’Aulne, expresses anger that an unidentified instructor had requested Muslims within the class of 13-year-olds to depart as a result of “he was going to show a photo that would shock them.”
The dad or mum asks on the video: “Why this hatred? Why does a history teacher act like this in front of 13-year-olds?”
The assailant will not be identified to have a connection to the college. French media reported that he was 18 and of Russian origin.
A police union official informed the French tv station BFM that witnesses had seen the assailant slicing the sufferer’s throat. The nationwide police had been referred to as, officers mentioned, and after having found the decapitated sufferer, confronted the assailant close by, near the college. Brandishing a big knife, he threatened the officers, and after refusing to give up, was shot 10 occasions, they mentioned.
French media, quoting witnesses, mentioned the assailant was heard to yell “Allahu akbar” for the time being of the knife assault. A photograph of a corpse mendacity in the midst of a leafy suburban avenue appeared on French tv not lengthy afterward.
The assault got here three weeks after a knife-wielding assailant wounded two individuals in Paris close to the positioning of the previous Charlie Hebdo workplace — the scene of a 2015 terrorist assault concentrating on the satirical newspaper for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
French officers of all political stripes rushed to denounce the instructor’s killing. The inside minister, answerable for the police, reduce quick an official journey to Morocco and flew residence to Paris.
“The assassination of a history teacher is an attack on freedom of expression and the values of the republic,” the president of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, mentioned on Twitter. “To attack a teacher is to attack all French citizens and freedom.”
“Frightful. Huge emotion and anger in the face of this terrorist barbarism,” a number one Socialist parliamentarian, Boris Vallaud, wrote on Twitter.
In the video, the dad or mum particulars what his daughter informed him had transpired within the class.
“So this week, he allowed himself to tell them, the Muslims, Muslim students raise your hands,” the mother and father says. “So they raised their hands, and he said, ‘right, leave the class.’ So my daughter refused to leave and asked him, ‘why?’ And he said he was going to show a photo that would shock them. And then he showed them a naked man, telling them it was the prophet.”
Another dad or mum, Carine Mendes, 41, whose youngster had attended the category, provided a extra nuanced view of what occurred. She referred to as the instructor “a very sweet person, in his words, in his expressions.”
Ms. Mendes mentioned the instructor had recommended to Muslim college students who didn’t need to see the cartoon that they depart the classroom quickly, and had requested those that remained to not inform their Muslim classmates concerning the cartoon so as to not offend their religion.
“He really tried to do things with respect, he didn’t want to hurt anyone,” she mentioned.
But in a second class the place the instructor gave the course, a shocked scholar refused to depart the room and informed her father about what occurred. He was the daddy who later complained within the video posted on-line.
The subsequent day, the instructor apologized to his college students and the principal despatched an e mail message to folks to attempt to clear up the state of affairs. The instructor’s suggestion to depart the classroom, the principal mentioned, had been insensitive.
“Without wanting to offend anyone, it turned out that by offering this possibility to the students, he still offended the student,” the principal’s e mail learn.
Ms. Mendes mentioned that what occurred “was awful.”
“He was just giving a course on freedom of expression,” she mentioned.
“A teacher was killed just for doing his job,” Sophie Venetitay, a academics’ union official, informed BFM.
Constant Méheut and Antonella Francini contributed reporting.