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Terrorism

France to rally for teacher beheaded in Paris suburb attack

Attack in Conflans: the national tribute to Samuel Paty will take place next Wednesday 21 October, 2020.
Attack in Conflans: the national tribute to Samuel Paty will take place next Wednesday 21 October, 2020. © AFP
3 min

Rallies in dozens of cities across France will pay tribute to history teacher Samuel Paty, assassinated on Friday for showing his pupils caricatures of Mohammed. The Élysée Palace said a national tribute would be paid to the teacher on Wednesday. 

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Two days after the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb by a young Russian Chechen man, rallies are planned on Sunday throughout France to pay tribute to him. 

"It is absolutely important to show our mobilisation and our solidarity, our national cohesion," Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told France 2, calling on "everyone (to) support the teachers".

One rally was set to take place at the Place de la Republique in Paris, a traditional site of protest where around 1.5 million people demonstrated in 2015 following a deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo's office by Islamist gunmen.

Rallies were also expected in Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.

Paty had been the target of online threats for showing the cartoons, with the father of one schoolgirl launching an online call for "mobilisation" against him, France's anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said.

The 18-year old suspect, named as Abdullakh A, was shot dead by police shortly after the attack.

The Russian embassy in Paris on Saturday said the suspect's family had arrived in France from Chechnya when he was six and requested asylum.

The schoolgirl's father and a known Islamist militant are among 11 people taken into custody.

Ricard said the school received threats after the class in early October, which featured the controversial caricatures with the girl's father accusing Paty of disseminating "pornography".

The aggrieved father named Paty and gave the school's address in a social media post just days before the beheading which President Emmanuel Macron has labelled an Islamist terror attack.

'Immersed in religion'

Ricard did not say if the attacker had any links to the school, pupils or parents, or had acted independently in response to the online campaign.

Witnesses said he was spotted at the school on Friday afternoon asking pupils where he could find Paty.

A photograph of Paty and a message confessing to his murder were found on the assailant's mobile phone.

The prosecutor said the attacker had been armed with a knife, an airgun and five canisters. He had fired shots at police and tried to stab them as they closed in on him.

He was in turn shot nine times, said Ricard.

Locals in the Normandy town of Evreux where the attacker lived in the Madeleine district described him as low key.

One who had been to school with him said he had become noticeably religious in recent years.

"Before, he got involved in fights but for the last two or three years he had calmed down" and had been "immersed in religion", he said.

Ricard said Paty's murder illustrated "the very high-level terrorist threat" France still faces.

Macron threat

The attacker himself was not known to the French intelligence services, said the prosecutor.

An investigation is under way into "murder linked to a terrorist organisation".

The investigation will also look at a tweet from an account opened by the attacker, and since shut down, that showed a picture of Paty's head and described Macron as "the leader of the infidels".

Macron's office said a national tribute would be held for Paty on Wednesday.

(with AFP)

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