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Conflans attack

French police raid homes in online Islamist crackdown after teacher’s killing

A demonstrator holds a sign translating as "I am a teacher" at a rally in Paris on Sunday in support of 47-year-old teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered as he left his school on Friday.
A demonstrator holds a sign translating as "I am a teacher" at a rally in Paris on Sunday in support of 47-year-old teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered as he left his school on Friday. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

French police have raided the homes of dozens of Islamist activists active on social networks three days after the beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, France’s interior minister said Monday.

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French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said over 80 investigations have been launched for online hate speech following the killing of the teacher, who had been the target of attacks on the Internet.

Investigators were focusing on individuals who expressed support for the 18-year-old suspect in the murder of Samuel Paty, the junior high school teacher beheaded on Friday as he left his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine northwest of Paris. 

“Since the assassination of the teacher, more than 80 investigations have been opened concerning online hate speech and individuals who, in one way or another, said this teacher got what he deserved,” Darmanin told Europe 1 radio.

“Never has a government made such an effort against this rampant Islamism on social networks,” Darmanin said, explaining police began making arrests Sunday and would continue to do so through the week. 

“I cannot give too many details, but they concern dozens of individuals, not necessarily linked with the investigation (into Paty's murder)," he said.  

Anti-Islamophobia group targeted

Police shot dead the suspected killer, an 18-year-old Russian refugee of Chechen origin, shortly after Paty was killed.  

Several of the suspect’s family members have been detained, as well as the father of one of Paty’s students who accused the teacher online of having insulted Islam.

Darmanin said the parent and an Islamist activist “appeared to have declared a fatwa” against the teacher. 

The minister said police were investigating 51 organisations, several of which would be subject to government bans during an upcoming cabinet meeting. 

Darmanin said a human rights organisation called the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) was among those being considered for the ban list. 

Founded in 2000, the CCIF describes itself as a human rights group combatting discrimination and violence against persons associated with Islam.

“This group appears to have been implicated” in hate speech, Darmanin said. “We have several pieces of evidence that suggest the group is indeed an enemy of the Republic.” 

CCIF founder Marwan Muhammad, who is no longer a member of the group but speaks in its support, said the group had nothing to do with the attack. 

“The CCIF had absolutely nothing to do with the attack,” Muhammad tweeted in response to Darmanin’s remarks.

“What they want is a purely political trial of the struggle against Islamophobia.” 

 

 

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