The French school teacher beheaded in an Islamist terror attack on Friday had a ‘fatwa’ launched against him before he was killed, France’s interior minister said today.
Gerald Darmanin said an arrested preacher and a father who complained about the teacher’s use of Prophet Mohammed cartoons had ‘clearly launched a fatwa’, or Islamic religious ruling, against teacher Samuel Paty.
French police today raided the homes of dozens of suspected militants in a crackdown which Darmanin said was intended to send a message that ‘enemies of the Republic’ will not enjoy ‘a minute’s respite’.
Darmanin told Europe 1 radio that police operations were continuing against ‘dozens of individuals’ today after 11 people were arrested over the weekend and Emmanuel Macron vowed new measures against extremism.
The father, Brahim Chnina, whose 13-year-old daughter went to Paty’s secondary school, had launched an online call for ‘mobilisation’ against the teacher and had sought his dismissal from the school over the cartoons.
Chnina had named Paty and given the school’s address in a social media post just days before the assault, which Macron labelled an Islamist terror attack.
Prosecutors have not said whether the attacker, 18-year-old Chechen extremist Aboulakh Anzorov, had any links to the school or acted independently upon the online outrage.
However, relatives of Anzorov have been arrested and his half-sister is known to have joined ISIS in 2014, although her current whereabouts are unknown.
According to Le Monde, Anzorov had tried to bribe students with hundreds of euros for information about the teacher, with a 15-year-old pupil apparently among those arrested – although it is not suggested that he knew what Anzorov had planned.
Darmanin said there were about 80 investigations under way into online hate speech in France and that he was looking into whether or not certain groups from the French Muslim community should be dissolved.
A crowd of people gather at the Place de la Republique in Paris on Sunday to pay tribute to murdered teacher Samuel Paty
Father Brahim Chinina, left, mobilised complaints against teacher Samuel Paty, right, who was beheaded in Paris on Friday after he shared cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class
Demonstrators have gathered in several French cities to support freedom of speech after history teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered by an Islamic extremist for showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Pictured: Several people held signs reading ‘Je suis Prof, Je suis Samuel’ (meaning ‘I am a teacher, I am Samuel) to echo the ‘I am Charlie’ rallying cry after the 2015 attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo
Thousands gathered in Place de la Reublique to pay tribute to a history teacher who was brutally murdered by an Islamic extremist for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class
Some placed placards outside Paty’s school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine reading ‘I am Samuel’ that echoed the ‘I am Charlie’ rallying cry after the 2015 attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of Mohammed
A moment’s silence was observed across the square, broken by applause and a rendition of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Pictured: A child holds up a poster of Samuel Paty that reads ‘Je suis prof’, ‘I’m a teacher’
A protester in the French capital holds aloft a placard which reads ‘they won’t decapitate the Republic’ in the wake of the brutal attack
The thousands of demonstrators in central Paris were joined by French Prime Minister Jean Castex (left), Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (centre) and Paris deputy mayor Audrey Pulvar (right)
French prime minister Jean Castex joined demonstrators on Sunday who staged a rally in tribute to Paty, 47.
Thousands gathered to pay tribute to the slain teacher in a defiant show of solidarity at the Place de la Republique after the latest in a string of terror attacks in Paris.
Some held placards reading ‘I am Samuel’ that echoed the ‘I am Charlie’ rallying cry after the 2015 attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of Mohammed.
A moment’s silence was observed across the square, broken by applause and a rendition of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Others recited: ‘Freedom of expression, freedom to teach.’
Demonstrators also gathered in major cities including Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.
It has been revealed that Islamist terrorist Anzorov filmed himself killing and then beheading Paty outside the gates of his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine before sharing a video of the victim’s severed head to fellow ISIS supporters.
Investigations are focusing on Brahim Chnina, the father of the 13-year-old girl in Paty’s class, who denounced the teacher online and gave details of the school. He has since been arrested.
Branding Mr Paty a thug in a video posted on Twitter sometime in the last week, he asked the community to complain about the teacher’s behaviour. The killer is presumed to have seen the video and acted upon it.
The killer’s uncle told French television: ‘He was a child. He was only 18. If he were still alive, I would have asked him: ‘Why did you do that? What was going on your head?’ He must have been influenced by someone.’
The prosecutor leading the investigation, Jean-François Ricard, said that the suspect, who had been granted a 10-year residency as a refugee in March and was not known to intelligence services, had been armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets.
The Russian embassy in Paris said Anzorov’s family arrived in France from Chechnya when he was six to seek asylum.
It also emerged that Anzorov asked pupils at the French school to point out the teacher who had shared a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet nude before targeting him.
Mr Paty had received threats after showing the cartoon during a class on freedom of speech about 10 days ago at the secondary school in middle-class Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
The teacher had invited Muslim students to leave the room before showing the caricature. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
However, one pupil stayed behind by mistake, and later told her Muslim 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.
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
A person holds a sign reading ‘I am Samuel’ as people gather on the Vieux Port in Marseille
Pupils left messages to the teacher reading ‘Thank you Mr. Paty to have taught us History and Freedom of Speech, We love you’ (left) and ‘Hommage to Mr. Paty’ (right)
A child lays flowers on Saturday at the school in the western Parisian suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine
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
Chnina, the concerned parent, and an Islamic activist friend, Abdelhakim Sefrioui, are among 11 people who have been arrested in connection with the attack.
The video shared by Chnina sparked community outrage and was shared by a mosque in Pantin, a Parisian suburb. Days later, Mr Paty was stabbed and decapitated.
Witnesses said they heard Chechen-born attacker Anzorov shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ – Arabic for God is the Greatest – before he was shot dead by police about 600 yards from the killing.
French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the assault as ‘a murder linked to a terrorist organisation’.
Five of the people held for questioning are members of Anzorov’s social circle, including his grandparents, parents and 17-year-old brother.
Friday’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.
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.’
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, 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.’
Teachers arrive to lay flowers in front of Bois d’Aulne middle school to pay their respect after a teacher was assassinated
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’
Teachers arrive to lay flowers in front of Bois d’Aulne middle school to pay their respect after a teacher was assassinated
Pictured: A woman views floral tributes outside the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine following the death of a French teacher
Signs read ‘Je suis Samuel’ outside the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in tribute to Mr Paty, who was killed on Friday
Prime minister Castex wrote on Twitter: ‘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.’
In an outpouring of grief, the hashtag #JeSuisSamuel (I am Samuel) trended on social media, like the #JeSuisCharlie call for solidarity after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015.
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.
People gather in front of the Bois d’Aulne college after the attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine
Teenagers arriving to lay flowers in front of Bois d’Aulne middle school to pay their respect after Mr Paty’s murder
French police officers were seen standing guard and holding firearms at the end of the street where the teenager 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
France’s litany of deadly attacks
- Two people were stabbed and wounded in Paris on September 25, 2020 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.
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 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, the leader of the far-right 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 France Unbowed, 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’.
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.