A history teacher decapitated outside his secondary school in a Paris suburb on Friday after he showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammad to his pupils has been named.
Samuel Paty (47) who taught history and geography at the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of the French capital, was attacked on Friday evening by an 18-year-old man who was shot dead by police shortly afterwards.
Earlier this month, Paty had shown a class of teenage pupils a caricature from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a moral and civic education class discussion about freedom of speech, sparking a furious response from a number of parents who had demanded his resignation. Before presenting the caricature, the teacher reportedly invited Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished.
Afterwards, the father of a 13-year-old girl who did not leave the class posted a video on YouTube claiming the teacher had shown a "photo of a naked man" claiming he was the "Muslim prophet". The father called on other parents to join him in a collective action against the teacher, whom he described as a "voyou" (thug).
In order to calm the situation, the school organised a meeting between the headteacher, the teacher and an official from the education authority.
The 18-year-old killer, who was born in Moscow and was reported to be from Chechnya, attacked Paty as he left the school, beheading him with a large kitchen cleaver. He then took a photo of his victim and posted it, with a message to French president Emmanuel Macron signed "Abdullah the servant of Allah", on social media.
Witnesses said the killer shouted “Allahu Akbar”, then ran off chased by police. He was shot dead after refusing to surrender. Officers said they fired at least 10 times after the attacker threatened them.
Macron visited the scene of the attack on Friday evening. “One of our compatriots was assassinated today because he taught pupils freedom of expression, the freedom to believe and not believe,” he said. “This was a cowardly attack on our compatriot. He was the victim of a typical Islamist terrorist attack.”
Nine people were being questioned by police on Saturday, among them members of the attacker’s family, including his grandfather and 17-year-old brother.
The anti-terror prosecutor has opened an investigation into “assassination linked to a terrorist organisation and association with terrorist criminals”.
The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, is due to meet teacher and parent representatives on Saturday and is expected to release a message of solidarity to all school staff and pupils’ families afterwards. The anti-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-Francois Ricard, is also expected to make a statement on Saturday.
A court in Paris is currently trying 14 people in connection with the January 2015 killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, and the gunning down of a police officer. Three weeks ago, a man with a knife stabbed two members of a television production company outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in response to the newspaper’s decision to republish the controversial caricatures, originally printed in 2015, to mark the opening of the trial.
Staff at Charlie Hebdo released a statement after Friday’s killing expressing their “horror and revulsion”.
On social media, parents paid tribute to the teacher. “RIP Monsieur Paty. He was my son’s teacher last year. He was a man of great humanity,” wrote one.
The hashtag #JeSuisProf (I’m a teacher) was spreading on social media on Saturday. It is reminiscent of #JeSuisCharlie, which emerged as a global wave of support for the journalists and staff of Charlie Hebdo killed in 2015.