The French teacher who was beheaded by a suspected Islamist terrorist yesterday for showing his class cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed has today been identified as Samuel Paty.
The 47-year-old had received threats after opening a discussion ‘for a debate’ about the caricatures about 10 days ago before he was stabbed and decapitated by 18-year-old Chechen gunman Aboulakh A in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine 25 miles north-west of Paris.
Muslim parents had taken offence at Mr Paty’s decision to show his class caricatures of the Prophet and branded him a ‘thug’ in a video shared online by a mosque just days before he was murdered.
He had ‘invited Muslim students out of the classroom’ before showing a caricature of the Prophet published by Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted by terrorists five years ago, in a lesson about free speech.
The cartoon reportedly showed the Prophet Mohammed crouching with a star drawn on his buttocks and the inscription ‘A star is born’.
A father of a 13-year-old pupil at the secondary school in middle-class Conflans-Sainte-Honorine told Reuters Mr Paty had told any Muslim students to leave because the cartoon would likely cause offence. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
One Muslim pupil stayed behind by mistake, and later told her parents. They filed a complaint against the teacher and held a meeting with Mr Paty, the school principal and an official from the education authority.
Brahim Chnina, who said his daughter was in the class branded Mr Paty a thug in a video posted on Twitter sometime in the last week, where he asked the community to complain about his behaviour.
Before showing the images, Mr Paty asked Muslim children to leave the room because he planned to show something shocking, Mr Chnina said. ‘What was the message he wanted to send these children? Why does a history teacher behave this way in front of 13-year-olds?’ he asked.
‘If you want to join forces and say ‘stop, don’t touch our children, then send me a message.’ This thug should not remain in the national education system, should no longer teach our children. He should go educate himself.’
The video sparked community outrage and was shared by a mosque in Pantin, a Parisian suburb. Days later, Mr Paty was then stabbed and decapitated by Russian national Aboulakh A, who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ in the attack.
The suspected Islamist was yesterday shot dead by police about 600 yards from the killing when he refused to drop his weapons and threatened the officers. It is unclear whether the gunman had seen the video.
French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the assault as ‘a murder linked to a terrorist organisation’.
Nine people have been arrested, including the parents of a child at the school who had signalled their disagreement with Mr Paty’s decision to show the cartoon, a judicial source said.
Four people were initially detained by police over the murder, but five new people held for questioning are members of the suspected Islamist’s social circle, including his grandparents, parents and 17-year-old brother.
Muslim parents including Brahim Chnina had taken offence at Mr Paty’s decision to show his class caricatures of the Prophet and branded him a ‘thug’ in a video shared online by a mosque just days before he was murdered
A picture of a body lying in the middle of the road was shared online before French anti-terror prosecutors confirmed they were investigating an assault in which a man was decapitated on the outskirts of Paris
Police shown arriving to attempt to arrest the 18-year-old suspect, suspected of beheading a middle school teacher on Friday. French officers were seen pointing their firearms downs the street at the suspect out of shot of the video
French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’, claiming: ‘One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught the freedom to believe or not believe. He said the attack should not divide France because that is what the extremists want. We must stand all together as citizens’
Teenagers arriving to lay flowers in front of Bois d’Aulne middle school to pay their respect after Mr Party’s murder
French police officers stand as adults and children gather in front of flowers displayed at the entrance of the school in Paris
The killer fled to the nearby town of Eragny-sur-Oise (pictured) around two miles away from where the alleged beheading occurred, where he refused to surrender and was shot dead by the police
Yesterday’s terror attack came as Emmanuel Macron works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside French values. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to five million members, and Islam is the country’s second religion.
The French President denounced what he called an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’, claiming: ‘One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught the freedom to believe or not believe. He said the attack should not divide France because that is what the extremists want. We must stand all together as citizens.
Mr Macron added: ‘It was no coincidence that the terrorist killed a teacher because he wanted to kill the Republic and its values. The Enlightenment, (is) the possibility to make our children, wherever they come from, whatever they believe in, whether they believe or not, whatever their religion, to turn them into free citizens.
‘This battle is ours and it is existential. They will not pass. Obscurantism and the violence that goes with it will not win. They will not divide us. That’s what they seek and we must stand together.’
Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote on Twitter today: ‘Through one of its defenders, it is the Republic which has been struck in the heart by Islamist terrorism. In solidarity with its teachers, the State will react with the greatest firmness so that the Republic and its citizens live, free! We will never give up. Never.’
Addressing the country’s teachers, pupils and their parents, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Paty was killed by what he called the enemies of freedom. ‘The Republic will never, never, never back down when confronted by terror, intimidation,’ he said in a recorded statement.
Laurent Brosse, mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, said: ‘We’ll pick ourselves up together, thanks to our spirit of solidarity.’ The anti-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, is expected to make a statement today.
Police said they were investigating a tweet posted from an account that showed a picture of the teacher’s head, and which has since been shut down. It was unclear whether the message, which contained a threat against Macron – describing him as ‘the leader of the infidels’ – had been posted by the attacker, they said.
A video taken by a local resident shows the police attempting to arrest the gunman, who can be heard shouting at someone out of shot and pointing their guns at the suspect as they close in.
They shout at him repeatedly to ‘throw your gun’ and ‘get down to the ground’ in French. At one point, an officer is heard saying that he is ‘shooting’, but says ‘these are marbles’ – suggesting the teenager was firing a BB Gun.
More inaudible shouting is heard as the police move up the road, where they are hidden from view behind some trees. Seconds later, multiple gunshots can be heard as the police shoot the suspect dead.
French police officers were seen standing guard and holding firearms at the end of the street where earlier a teenager suspected of beheading a middle school history teacher was shot dead after refusing to surrender
A police source said the scene has been cordoned off and a bomb disposal unit dispatched because of the suspected presence of an explosive vest
French police gather outside a middle school in a Parisian suburb of Friday night after a history teacher was decapitated
The French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to visit the scene of the stabbing in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine
A police source said the scene has been cordoned off and a bomb disposal unit dispatched because of the suspected presence of an explosive vest.
‘[The attacker] is believed to be from a Chechen background,’ said an investigating source, referring to the Russian Federation republic.
Thousands of battle-hardened Chechen refugees, including many devout Muslims, entered France in the early 2000s following two bloody wars against Russia. Around 30,000 Chechens in total escaped to France, many of them resettling in the suburbs of major cities such as Paris.
France has seen occasional violence involving its Chechen community in recent months – in the Dijon region, the Mediterranean city of Nice, and the western town of Saint-Dizier – believed to be linked to local criminal activity.
It was not known what link, if any, the attacker might have with the teacher or whether he had accomplices.
Police on Friday arrived at the scene after receiving a call about a suspicious individual loitering near the school, a police source said. There they found the dead man and nearby sighted the suspect armed with a knife-like weapon, who threatened them as they tried to arrest him.
They opened fire and injured him severely, the source said. The man later died of his injuries, a judicial source said.
France’s litany of deadly attacks
- Two people were stabbed and wounded in Paris on September 25 this year near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where Islamist militants carried out a deadly attack in 2015. A man originally from Pakistan was arrested over the attack.
- October 3, 2019 – Mickael Harpon, a 45-year-old IT specialist with security clearance to work in the Paris police headquarters, killed three police officers and one civilian employee before being shot dead by police. He had converted to Islam about 10 years earlier.
- March 23, 2018 – A gunman kills three people in southwestern France after holding up a car, firing on police and taking hostages in a supermarket, screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. Security forces storm the building and kill him.
- July 26, 2016 – Two attackers kill a priest and seriously wound another hostage in a church in northern France before being shot dead by French police. Francois Hollande, who was France’s president at the time, says the two hostage-takers had pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
- July 14, 2016 – A gunman drives a heavy truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attacker is identified as a Tunisian-born Frenchman.
- June 14, 2016 – A Frenchman of Moroccan origin stabs a police commander to death outside his home in a Paris suburb and kills his partner, who also worked for the police. The attacker told police negotiators during a siege that he was answering an appeal by Islamic State.
- November 13, 2015 – Paris is rocked by multiple, near simultaneous gun-and-bomb attacks on entertainment sites around the city, in which 130 people are killed and 368 are wounded. Islamic State says it was responsible for the attacks. Two of the 10 known perpetrators were Belgian citizens and three others were French.
- January 7-9, 2015 – Two Islamist militants break into an editorial meeting of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 and rake it with bullets, killing 12 people. Another militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a supermarket on Jan. 9, killing four before police shoot him dead.
Before being shot, the teenager had posted a grisly video of the severed head on social media before being shot dead by police, AP reported. French anti-terror prosecutors confirmed they were investigating an assault in which a man was decapitated on the outskirts of Paris.
‘The body of decapitated man was found at around 5.30 in the afternoon,’ said an investigating source. ‘When police arrived, the person thought to be responsible was still present and threatened them with his weapons.’
The unidentified killer then fled to the nearby town of Eragny-sur-Oise where he refused to surrender.
‘He was waving a gun by this time and further threatened officers,’ said the source. ‘This is when he was shot dead by police… Around ten shots were heard.
France’s parliament suspended Friday’s debate after news of the decapitation, with session president Hugues Renson, visibly moved, calling the attack ‘abominable’.
MPs stood as Renson said that ‘in the name of all of us, I want to honour the memory of Mr Paty.’ Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer tweeted: ‘The Republic is under attack.’
Lawmakers and teachers’ unions hailed the slain teacher’s courage for confronting challenging taboos in French society. Freedom of expression was a core tenet of democracy, they said.
Jean-Remi Girard, president of the National Union of School Teachers, told BFM TV that children needed to understand that blasphemy can shock, but is legal.
Sophie Vénétitay, deputy head of the SNES-FSU teachers’ union, said: ‘He was murdered because he was doing his job, namely teaching critical thought.’ She said Mr Paty was a history and geography teacher who was in charge of ‘moral and civic education’.
‘In that capacity, he gave a lesson on the freedom of expression with the Mohammed cartoons,’ she said.
Thibault Humbert, mayor of the nearby suburb of Éragny-sur-Oise, said: ‘This was an exceptionally violent and horrifying attack. The police must be commended for intervening with such speed.’
Other politicians lined up to express their horror at the killing, with Xavier Bertrand, centre-Right president of the Hauts-de-France region, saying: ‘Islamist barbarity has taken aim at one of the symbols of the Republic: school. The terrorists want to shut us up, to bring us to our knees. They should know that we will not bend, they will never forbid us to read, write, draw, think, teach.’
Marine Le Pen of National Rally said: ‘A teacher beheaded for showing Charlie Hebdo caricatures. We are in France with this level of unbearable barbarity. Islamism is waging war on us: it is by force that we must drive them out of our country.’
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the far-Left party, Unbowed France, said: ‘Horrible crime in Conflans! In fact, the assassin takes himself for the god that he claims he follows. He is sullying religion. And he is inflicting on us all the hell of having to live with murderers like him.’
Local lawmaker Antoine Savignat said, ‘If we cannot talk about the Charlie Hebdo caricatures in school, we end up in denialism… In France, the country of freedom of expression, this cannot be allowed to happen.’
Parents of pupils laid flowers at the school gate. Some said their children were distraught.'(My daughter) is in pieces, terrorised by the violence of such an act. How will I explain to her the unthinkable?’ one father said.
Muslim leaders condemned the killing, which many public figures perceived as an attack on the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression.
Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque, said of the killing, ‘It is not a civilisation that kills an innocent person, it is barbarity’.
The attack follows a terrorism enquiry being launched in Paris last month after two news agency staff were stabbed outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo – the magazine where staff members were murdered in 2015 after publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet.
Those on trial range in age from 29 to 68, and are charged with providing logistics to the terrorists, including cash, weapons and vehicles.
Samuel Paty was school teacher who had enraged parents by displaying cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils
Pictured: Armed police stands near a police car in the outskirts of Paris where the attack took place. The first bloodbath took place in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb some 25 miles from the centre of the French capital on Friday
Pictured: More emergency services gathering after the attack and subsequent shooting
Paris-born brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi murdered 12 people in the Charlie Hebdo offices using Kalashnikovs, before escaping in a stolen car, and later being killed by police.
A third terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, gunned down four shoppers in a kosher supermarket and a policewoman during three days of carnage before he too was killed.
Charlie Hebdo now produces its magazine from a top secret location, and in September re-published the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which had provoked outrage in the Muslim world.
There have been a series of bomb, gun and knife attacks carried out by Islamic State and al-Qaeda operatives in France, dating back to early 2015
The deadliest single terrorist attack ever in the country came in November 2015 when 130 people were killed in Paris. Suicide bombers pledging allegiance to ISIS targeted the Stade de France, cafes, restaurants and the Bataclan music venue, where 90 died.
Earlier in the year, two Paris-born gunmen linked to Al-Qaeda broke into the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, leaving 17 people dead inside and three outside.
In July 2016, 86 people were killed and more than 400 injured when a 19-tonne truck was deliberately driven into crowds on the seafront promenade at Nice, in the South of France.
The terrorist turned out to be a Tunisian immigrant who was shot dead by police. During the same month, two Isis terrorists murdered an 86-year-old Catholic priest during a church service in Normandy.
There have been frequent knife attacks on the forces of law and order, leading to the deaths of serving police.
In October last year, a radicalised computer operative working at the Paris Prefecture in central Paris stabbed four of his colleagues to death. The attacker – who was also shot dead – turned out to be a Muslim convert who kept extremist Al-Qaeda and Islamic State literature and images on his computer.