An 18-year-old Chechen, suspected of beheading the teacher, was later shot dead by the police in Paris.
Beheading of a history teacher in a Paris suburb has rattled France, with President Emmanuel Macron denouncing it as an “Islamist terrorist attack”. The suspect was later shot dead by police.
The teacher had reportedly discussed caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad with his class. The French anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive.
Authorities investigating the horrific killing of the man in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine have arrested nine suspects.
The French President urged the nation to stand united against extremism. Macron visited the school where the teacher worked in the town of Conflans-Saint-Honorine and met with the staff after the killing.
“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 extremists want. “We must stand all together as citizens,” he said.
The incident came as Macron’s government works on a bill to address Islamist radicals who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.
France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, and Islam is the country’s No. 2 religion.
A police official said the suspect, armed with a knife and an airsoft gun — which fires plastic pellets — was shot dead about 600 meters (yards) 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 debate” about the caricatures about 10 days ago, a police official told the Associated Press. 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.
It was later revealed that the suspect shot dead by police was an 18-year-old Chechen. The grandparents, parents and the 17-year-old brother of the attacker were also arrested by the police.
Witnesses heard the assailant shout "Allahu Akbar" or "God is the Greatest", a police source told news agency Reuters.
Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. Two wars in the 1990s triggered a wave of emigration, with many Chechens heading for western Europe.
France has seen occasional violence involving its Chechen community in recent months, believed linked to local criminal activity and score-settling.
It is the second time in three weeks that terror linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad has struck France. Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after stabbing two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The weekly was the target of a deadly newsroom attack in 2015, and it republished caricatures of the prophet this month to underscore the right to freedom of information as a trial opened in the attack case.(With inputs from agencies)