The victim was a teacher at a secondary school in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine area, according to the French National Anti-Terror Prosecutor’s office. The Moscow-born alleged attacker was shot dead by police on Friday afternoon in Éragny, the same area where the victim’s body was found. Nine individuals have been taken in for questioning in relation to the attack, including the suspect’s parents, grandfather and brother, the judicial source added.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the teacher was a “victim of an Islamist attack.” Speaking at the scene of the attack, Macron said the educator was “killed because he was teaching students freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe.”
Multiple French media outlets, including CNN affiliate BFMTV, reported that the teacher recently showed controversial caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed to his students as part of a lesson on freedom of speech. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, some Muslim parents complained to the school about the teacher’s decision to use one or more of the cartoons as part of a discussion about the Charlie Hebdo attacks
Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of one of the pupils at the school, told Agence France-Presse that the teacher had taken the Muslim children out of the class before showing the caricatures. “My son told me that it was just to preserve them, it was out of pure kindness, because he had to show a caricature of the prophet of Islam and simply said to the Muslim children: ‘Go out, I don’t want it to hurt your feelings,’ that’s what my son told me,” he said.
Police have provided few other details about the attacker, the victim or the incident. The anti-terror prosecutor’s office, which has taken over the investigation of the attack, has not spoken publicly about a motive.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmamin said on Twitter that he was “keeping himself directly informed” of the situation “from the crisis room (he) had opened, in liaison with the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.”
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer described the attack as a “despicable assassination of one of its servants, a teacher,” and said his thoughts were with the family of the victim.
Friday’s attack comes as a trial continues relating to a series of January 2015 terrorist attacks which began with a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices following the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.