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Attacker shouted 'Allahu Akbar' when confronted by police

Teacher who showed students Muhammad cartoons decapitated in Paris terror attack

Police shoot and kill attacker outside school; Macron denounces ‘Islamist terrorist attack,’ defends freedom of expression

French police officers gather outside a high school after a history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad was beheaded in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, north of Paris, October 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
French police officers gather outside a high school after a history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad was beheaded in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, north of Paris, October 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AFP) — A history teacher who had shown caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammed in class was on Friday decapitated and his assailant shot dead by French police as they tried to arrest him, police and prosecutors said.

The attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he was confronted by police, a police source said. The Muslim phrase, meaning “God is Great,” has often been heard in jihadist attacks.

The suspect’s identity was not made public. French media reported that the suspect was an 18-year-old Chechen, born in Moscow. That information could not be immediately confirmed.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the beheading an “Islamist terrorist attack.”

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press in front of a middle school in Conflans Saint-Honorine, 30kms northwest of Paris, on October 16, 2020, after a teacher was decapitated by an attacker who has been shot dead by policemen. French prosecutors are treating the attack as a terror incident. (ABDULMONAM EASSA / POOL / AFP)

Macron visited the scene of the attack, saying, “One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught… the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.”

He said the attack shouldn’t divide France because that’s what the extremists want. “We must stand all together as citizens,” he said.

French anti-terror prosecutors said they were investigating the assault which happened on the outskirts of Paris at around 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) near a school in Conflans Saint-Honorine, a western suburb of the French capital.

According to a police source, the victim was a history teacher who recently discussed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed in class.

A police car enters the perimeter after a history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was decapitated, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, north of Paris. Police have shot the suspected killer dead. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Prosecutors said they were treating the incident as “a murder linked to a terrorist organization” and related to a “criminal association with terrorists.”

The allegations are similar to charges brought last month against a 25-year old Pakistani man who wounded two people in a meat cleaver attack to avenge the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The attacker seriously injured two employees of a TV production agency, whose offices are on the same block that used to house Charlie Hebdo. Both survived.

That attack came three weeks into an ongoing 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.

Two French security officers standing guard on Saturday, January 10, 2015, the day after a terror attack on a kosher market in Paris. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Seventeen people were killed in the three-day spree that heralded a wave of Islamist violence in France that has so far claimed more than 250 lives.

The trial has sparked protests across France, with thousands of demonstrators rallying against Charlie Hebdo and the French government.

Police on Friday arrived at the scene after receiving a call about a suspicious individual loitering near the school, a police source said.

There they found the dead man and nearby sighted the suspect armed with a knife-like weapon who threatened them as they tried to arrest him.

They opened fire and injured him severely, the source said. He later died of his injuries, a judicial source said.

The scene has been cordoned off and a bomb disposal unit dispatched because of the suspected presence of an explosives vest, the police source said.

French police officers stand outside a high school after a history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was beheaded, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north of Paris. Police have shot the suspected killer dead. The teacher had received threats after opening a discussion “for a debate” about the caricatures about 10 days ago, the police official told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, on a visit to Morocco, is returning to Paris immediately after talking with Prime Minister Jean Castex and President Emmanuel Macron, his office said.

Macron was to join key ministers at a crisis group set up in the interior ministry, the president’s office said.

French parliament suspended Friday’s debate after news of the decapitation, with session president Hugue Renson, visibly moved, calling the attack “abominable.”

MPs stood as Renson said that “in the name of all of us, I want to honor the memory of the victim.”

The attack comes only days after a follower of the Islamic State militant group who attacked a police officer outside Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris with a hammer was sentenced to 28 years in jail.

Farid Ikken, 43, charged at officers on patrol outside the cathedral on June 6, 2017, shouting “this is for Syria.”

AP contributed to this report

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