Decapitated teacher killed outside French school identified

·3-min read

The teacher who was decapitated outside his school in Paris has been identified.

Samuel Paty, 47, was murdered in broad daylight in the suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday (local time) by an 18-year-old Moscow-born attacker who was shot dead by police just minutes after.

The 18-year-old reportedly approached students in the street and asked them to point out his victim. He did not have a child at the school but was enraged after hearing the teacher had shown a cartoon image of a Muslim prophet during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Earlier this month, the history teacher had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, angering a number of Muslim parents who believe any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

Samuel Paty, 47, has been identified as the teacher killed in Paris on Friday. Source: Twitter
Samuel Paty, 47, has been identified as the teacher killed in Paris on Friday. Source: Twitter

Parents of pupils laid flowers at the school gate. Some said their children were distraught.

Online, people are paying tribute to the teacher, using the hashtag ‘JeSuisSamuel’,which means ‘I am Samuel’, like the #JeSuisCharlie call for solidarity following the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

"(My daughter) is in pieces, terrorised by the violence of such an act. How will I explain to her the unthinkable?" one father wrote on Twitter.

Addressing the country's teachers, students and their parents, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Paty was killed by what he called the enemies of freedom.

"The Republic will never, never, never back down when confronted by terror, intimidation," he said in a recorded statement.

Muslim leaders condemned the killing, which many public figures perceived as an attack on the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression.

A poster reading "I am Samuel" and flowers lay outside the school where slain history teacher Samuel Paty was working. Source: AP
A poster reading "I am Samuel" and flowers lay outside the school where slain history teacher Samuel Paty was working. Source: AP

The litany of deadly attacks by Islamist militants or their sympathisers was devastating for France's Muslim community, Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque, said.

"Every day that passes without incident we give thanks," he told French radio.

"We are between hammer and anvil. It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness."

Police arrest nine people

Police are questioning nine people in custody following the attack authorities believe was carried out by a suspected Islamist sympathiser.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamist terrorism.

"I want to share with you my total indignation. Secularism, the backbone of the French Republic, was targetted in this vile act," Mr Castex said.

Investigators were seeking to establish whether the attacker had acted alone or had accomplices. French media reported that he was an 18-year-old of Chechen origin.

Four relatives of the attacker, including a minor, were detained in the immediate aftermath of the attack, according to police sources.

French police officers guard a street in Eragny on Friday where an attacker was shot dead by policemen after he decapitated a man. Source: AFP/Getty
French police officers guard a street in Eragny on Friday where an attacker was shot dead by policemen after he decapitated a man. Source: AFP/Getty

Five more were detained overnight, among them two parents of students at the College du Bois d'Aulne where the teacher was employed.

A week ago, one man who said his daughter was in Paty's class recorded a video shared on social media in which he branded the teacher a thug and appealed to others to "join forces and say 'stop, don't touch our children'".

It was not clear whether the parent was one of those in police custody. It was also not immediately known if the attacker had seen the video.

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