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Grisly beheading of teacher in terror attack rattles France

AP/Paris
Filed on October 17, 2020
France, Emmanuel Macron, attacker

French President Emmanuel Macron urged the nation to stand united against terrorism.

For the second time in three weeks, terror struck France, this time with the gruesome beheading of a history teacher in a street in a Paris suburb. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged the nation to stand united against terrorism. The French anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive. Four people, one a minor, were detained hours later, the office of anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said without elaborating. Police typically fan out to find family and friends of potential suspects in terror cases.

Macron visited the school where the teacher worked in the town of Conflans-Saint-Honorine and met with staff after the slaying.  

"One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught ... the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe," Macron said.

He said the attack shouldn't divide France because that's what the militants want. "We must stand all together as citizens," he said.

The incident came as Macron's government works on a bill to address militants who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.  

A police official said the suspect, armed with a knife and an airsoft gun - which fires plastic pellets - was shot dead about 600 metres from where the male teacher was killed after he failed to respond to orders to put down his arms, and acted in a threatening manner.

The teacher had received threats after opening a discussion "for a debate" about the caricatures about 10 days ago, the police official said. The parent of a student had filed a complaint against the teacher, another police official said, adding that the suspected killer did not have a child at the school.

An ID card was found at the scene but police were verifying the identity, the police official said. French media reported that the suspect was an 18-year-old Chechen, born in Moscow. That information could not be immediately confirmed.

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 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 were fanning out on searches of homes and potential family and friends of the man in question, the police official said.

The two officials could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing investigations.

"We didn't see this coming," Conflans resident Remi Tell, who as a child had attended the Bois D'Aulne middle school, said on CNews TV station. He described the town as peaceful.

It was the second terrorism-related incident since the opening of an ongoing trial for the January 2015 newsroom massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.


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