The father of a student and the head of an Islamist pro-Hamas group urged the killing of a French teacher who was beheaded for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, France’s interior minister said Monday, adding that police had carried out dozens of raids in connection with the attack.
“They apparently launched a fatwa against the teacher,” minister Gerald Darmanin told Europe 1 radio of the two men, who are among 11 people being held over the deadly attack by a young Chechen man.
One of the men was named as Abdelhakim Sefrioui, president of the “Cheikh Yassine collective.” Sheikh Ahmad Yassin was a founder of the Hamas terror group. He was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip in 2004.
According to French newspaper Liberation, Sefrioui was known to French security services for his Islamist activities and anti-Semitic speeches.
In July 2014, Sefrioui participated in protests in Paris, chanting slogans in praise of Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
He reportedly denounced the teacher in a video posted to social media a few days prior to the attack.
Samuel Paty was murdered on his way home from the school where he taught in a suburb northwest of Paris on Friday afternoon.
As part of a course in civics and morals this month, Paty, 47, showed the class cartoons of the prophet Mohammed — the most hot-button issue in France since the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine that published the images was attacked in 2015.
Depictions of the prophet are widely regarded as taboo in Islam.
Students and parents insisted Paty was not trying to provoke by showing the cartoons. However, the father of a schoolgirl had launched an online call for “mobilization” against Paty and sought his dismissal from the school.
The parent had named Paty and given the school’s address in a social media post just days before the assault
A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder were found on the cellphone of his killer, 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.
Witnesses said the suspect was spotted at the school on Friday asking pupils where he could find Paty.
French police on Monday raided the homes of “dozens” of Islamist militants, Darmanin said.
The interior minister said over 80 investigations had been launched for online hate speech following the killing of the teacher, who had been the target of vitriolic attacks on the internet.
Tens of thousands of people rallied in Paris and cities across France on Sunday in solidarity with Paty, as President Emmanuel Macron promised swift action against online extremism.
“You do not scare us. We are not afraid. You will not divide us. We are France!” tweeted Prime Minister Jean Castex, who joined the Paris demonstration on Sunday.
Castex was joined by Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and junior interior minister Marlene Schiappa. Some in the crowd chanted “I am Samuel,” echoing the widespread “I am Charlie” cry after Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in 2015 for publishing caricatures of the Islamic prophet.
Friday’s attack was the second of its kind since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings.
The magazine republished the controversial cartoons in the run-up to the trial of suspected accomplices of the authors of the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, which also saw a policewoman gunned down in the street.
Last month a young Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside Charlie Hebdo’s former office.