PARIS: A history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him/ PBUH) was decapitated on a French street and police shot the suspected killer dead.
Early on Saturday, a judicial source told AFP news agency that four people, including a minor, have been arrested in connection to the attack, which took place in the Conflans Sainte-Honorine suburb northwest of Paris.
Those held were related to the assailant. President Emmanuel Macron called the murder an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
The French anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation into Friday’s incident.
A police official – speaking on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press – said the suspect, armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, was shot to death by police about 600 meters (656 yards) from where the male middle school teacher was killed.
The teacher had received threats after opening a discussion “for a debate” about the caricatures about 10 days ago, the police official said.
He had shown pupils in his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), which are considered by Muslims to be blasphemous, according to a police source.
The attack took place in the street in front of the middle school where the victim worked.
French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the assault as “a murder linked to a terrorist organization” and related to a “criminal association with terrorists”.
The parent of a student had filed a complaint against the teacher, another police official said, adding the suspected killer did not have a child at the school. The suspect’s identity was not made public.
Police on Twitter advised the public to avoid the area. President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the scene on Friday evening.
The mayor of Eragny, Thibault Humbert, praised “the speed with which police neutralized the individual” on Twitter.
French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said he had set up a crisis centre to deal with Friday’s attack.
France has over the past several years seen a series of violent attacks. Bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre and sites around Paris killed 130 people.
Late last month, a man who emigrated to France from Pakistan used a meat cleaver to attack and wound two people outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The issue of the cartoons was revived last month when Charlie Hebdo decided to re-publish them to coincide with the start of the trial of accomplices in the 2015 attack.
Al-Qaeda, the group that claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after it republished the cartoons.
The magazine said last month it published to assert its right to freedom of expression, and to show it would not be cowed into silence by violent attacks. That stance was backed by many prominent French politicians and public figures. (Int’l News Desk)