CONFLANS-SAINTE-HONORINE | A French teacher who had recently shown caricatures of Muhammad to his students was beheaded on Friday near Paris, and his assailant was killed by police, three weeks after a chopper attack by a young Pakistani near the newspaper’s former offices satirical Charlie Hebdo.
According to a police source, the teacher, a history professor, was killed on the public highway not far from his college in Bois d´Aulne, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the Paris region.
The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office told AFP that it immediately seized the investigation, opened for “murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association”.
President Emmanuel Macron went to the crisis cell set up at the Interior Ministry and was expected at the scene of the attack that evening. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin immediately cut off an official trip to Morocco to return to Paris.
At the National Assembly, the deputies rose to “salute the memory” of the teacher and denounce a “horrible attack”.
The facts took place around 5 p.m. (local time), according to a police source.
Police officers from the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine anti-crime squad, about 50 km northwest of Paris, were called in for a suspicious individual prowling around a school, according to police.
On the spot, the police discovered the victim, and 200 meters away, in the commune of Éragny, they tried to stop a man who was threatening them with a bladed weapon and fired at him, seriously injuring him. The alleged assailant later succumbed to his injuries.
A security perimeter was set up and the demining service called, due to a suspected explosive vest.
The attack came three weeks to the day after the chopper attack by a 25-year-old Pakistani man outside the former Charlie Hebdo premises, which left two seriously injured.
The perpetrator of the Islamist attack told investigators that he acted in response to Charlie Hebdo’s re-publication in early September of cartoons of Muhammad, which made the satirical weekly a target of the jihadists.
Charlie Hebdo released the cartoons again on September 1 at the start of the January 2015 Paris bombings trial, which runs through November 10. A total of 12 people, including journalists and cartoonists from the weekly, were killed on January 7, 2015 in the attack on the newspaper.
In reaction to the republication of these drawings, thousands of demonstrators had protested in several cities of Pakistan against Charlie Hebdo and France.
The al Qaeda organization also threatened to attack the editorial staff of the satirical weekly again.
“It was the republication of the cartoons rather than the trial that compounded the threats,” a security source told AFP recently. “The will to strike the West is intact”, but “between those who are deceased, those who are incarcerated”, the capacity of action of terrorist groups is “very reduced”, she added.
The entire French political class denounced this attack and paid tribute to the teacher.
The president of the Hauts-de-France (north) region Xavier Bertrand stressed that “Islamist barbarism has attacked one of the symbols of our Republic: the school”. “Let them know that we will not fold: they will never prohibit us from reading, writing, drawing, thinking, teaching,” he added.
Since the wave of unprecedented jihadist attacks that began in 2015 in France and which left 258 dead, several have been perpetrated with knives, in particular at the Paris police headquarters in October 2019 or in Romans-sur-Isère in April.