Teen ‘asked pupils to identify teacher’ before beheading him for showing cartoon of Prophet Muhammad

Watch: Teacher killed in Paris suburb is named

A teenager asked pupils to identify a teacher before beheading him outside a school in Paris in a suspected Islamist terrorist attack, French authorities have said.

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard confirmed the unnamed 18-year-old attacker, who was born in Russia and is of Chechen origin, had asked children to point out Samuel Paty, 47, before he murdered him in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday.

Armed police killed the attacker minutes later near the College du Bois d’Aulne school in the suburb.

A photograph of the teacher’s body, accompanied by a message claiming responsibility posted on Twitter, was discovered on the assailant’s phone, found near his body.

Earlier this month Paty had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering a number of Muslim parents.

Some Muslims believe any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

 Samuel Paty was murdered on Friday
Samuel Paty was murdered on Friday

In the days after the lesson on freedom of expression, the pupil’s father recorded several videos in which he branded the history teacher a thug and called for him to be fired.

In one of the videos which were shared on social media, he urged others to “join forces and say ‘stop, don’t touch our kids’”.

Police detained four close relatives of the attacker soon after the murder, with five more detained overnight, including the father of a pupil at Paty’s school and an acquaintance of the pupil’s father known to the intelligence services.

The attacker had been living in the town of Evreux northwest of Paris and was not previously known to the intelligence services, Ricard told a news conference on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear if the attacker knew either the pupil’s father or the father’s acquaintance.

A poster reading "I am Samuel" and flowers lay outside the school where slain history teacher Samuel Paty was working, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an "Islamist terrorist attack" against a history teacher decapitated in a Paris suburb Friday, urging the nation to stand united against extremism. The teacher had discussed caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad with his class, authorities said. The suspected attacker was shot to death by police after Friday's beheading. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Flowers lay outside the school in Paris where history teacher Samuel Paty was working (Picture: AP)

Muslim leaders condemned Friday’s killing, including Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque.

He said deadly attacks by Islamist militants or their sympathisers were devastating for France’s Muslim community,

“We are between hammer and anvil,” he told France Inter radio.

“It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness.”

Watch: French president says teacher was victim of “Islamist attack”

French President Emmanuel Macron said the “Islamist terrorist attack” was targeting freedom of expression.

He added: “The whole country stands behind its teachers. Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not win.”

Parents of pupils laid flowers at the school gate.

“(My daughter) is in pieces, terrorised by the violence of such an act. How will I explain to her the unthinkable?” one father wrote on Twitter.

The killing shocked the country and carried echoes of an attack five years ago on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.