A history professor who displayed caricatures of Muhammad during a free speech class was beheaded near Paris on Friday, and his alleged assailant was killed by police.
The murder comes three weeks after a knife attack in the French capital near the former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine, which published these cartoons.
The victim was beheaded in the middle of the street, close to the school where he worked, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a small town of 35,000 inhabitants 50 kilometers from Paris, at about 5 pm local time (12 pm GMT).
The National Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation for “murder in connection with a terrorist endeavor” and “criminal terrorist association”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who was in Morocco, decided to return to Paris immediately and ordered the creation of a crisis unit.
French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to the site of the attack, according to the Presidency.
Police in the city of Conflans Saint-Honorine have been alerted to the presence of a suspicious individual who was hanging around a school, the prosecutor’s office said.
Upon arriving, the police found the victim beheaded 200 meters from the school. They tried to arrest a man holding a knife, but he threatened them, which led the police to shoot him.
The alleged perpetrator of the crime, whose identity has not yet been released, has died, judicial sources told AFP. Before being killed by the police, he shouted “Allah is great,” according to a source in the investigation.
The police established a security perimeter and the demining service was called on suspicion that the man was wearing an explosive vest.
Shock and incomprehension prevailed among neighbors with whom AFP spoke. They described the neighborhood in which the attack took place as “quiet”.
– In full trial of the Charlie Hebdo case –
The crime generated a wave of indignation among the authorities. “It is the Republic that is under attack”, reacted the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer.
In the National Assembly, deputies rose to “salute the professor’s memory” and denounce the “abominable attack”.
Just three weeks ago, two people were injured after a 25-year-old Pakistani man attacked by a machete near the old facilities of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The perpetrator of the attack told investigators that he wanted to avenge Charlie Hebdo’s republishing of Muhammad cartoons in early September.
It was with the same justification that the magazine was attacked in January 2015 by two jihadists, who carried out a massacre, killing most members of the newsroom, including some of France’s most famous cartoonists.
Under the title “Tout ça pour ça” (‘All this for this’, in free translation), Charlie Hebdo republished the drawings at the time of the trial of the attacks in 2015, which are underway in Paris.
In response, thousands of protesters protested in several cities in Pakistan against the magazine and France.
Al Qaeda had also threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo’s newsroom again, which after the 2015 attacks moved and kept its new address a secret.
Since the unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks that started in 2015 in France and killed 258 people, several attacks have been carried out across the country.
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