The assassin of the French professor killed by an Islamist for showing cartoons of Muhammad to his students was in contact with a Russian-speaking jihadist in Syria before his act, it was learned Thursday, while seven people were indicted.
The identity of this jihadist has not been established at this stage, said a source familiar with the matter.
According to the newspaper Le Parisien, this person located thanks to his computer IP address would be based in Idleb. The ultimate major jihadist and rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria, the province of Idleb is held by the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Cham, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
The region hosts thousands of foreigners, including French, British and Chechens, who have settled there by the thousands over the years, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the Paris region, was beheaded on October 16 by Abdoullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old refugee of Chechen Russian origin, for showing caricatures of Muhammad during two lessons at the start October on freedom of expression.
The assailant claimed responsibility for his action in an audio message in Russian where he said he had “avenged the prophet” Muhammad, accusing the professor of having “shown it in an insulting manner”. He was shot dead shortly after by the police.
This message, punctuated by references to the Koran where he is preparing to be a “martyr”, was relayed in a video broadcast in particular on Instagram. This video briefly refers in Russian to the Islamic State organization, according to an AFP translation.
After the national tribute paid to the teacher on Wednesday, where Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that France would not renounce either freedom of expression or secularism, other reactions continued to arrive at the international level.
The Director General of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay made a point of “paying tribute” to Samuel Paty, “assassinated because of the teaching he provided”, by a minute of silence during a world summit of Education which was held in virtual.
On the side of the investigation, seven people were charged, including six for “complicity in terrorist assassination”. Among them, two minors, aged 14 and 15, are being prosecuted for having appointed the teacher to the assailant on leaving college in exchange for money. They were left free under judicial supervision.
Also figures a parent of a student, Brahim Chnina, who had posted videos calling for popular revenge against the teacher. Anti-terrorism investigators are also interested in telephone exchanges between this parent of a student and the attacker.
A few days after the videos were broadcast, Samuel Paty was assassinated.
Brahim Chnina is accused, like the Islamist activist Abdelhakim Sefrioui also accused, of having “specifically designated the professor as a target on social networks”.
“There are sponsors who are behind this attack and who are certainly delighted to see that the investigation is focused on peripheral accomplices, who never wanted such a horror”, reacted to AFP the lawyer by M. Sefrioui.
Two friends of the assailant were also charged; a third relative is being prosecuted for “terrorist association with a view to committing crimes against persons”.
In recent days, many teachers have denounced their difficulties in teaching, especially on questions of secularism.
According to an Ifop poll published Thursday, nearly eight in ten French people find it “justified” that teachers use cartoons mocking religions in their course on freedom of expression.
“The national leap must lead us to consider that the teacher is central in our society and that each of us in our life as parents of students, of citizens, must respect the teachers,” said the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer.
Targeting student unions and left-wing parties, he also denounced “Islamogauchism”, pointing to a form of “intellectual complicity” in crimes like that of Mr. Paty.
This assassination is part of a tense context in France, especially since the republication of the cartoons of Mohammed by the weekly Charlie Hebdo in early September, before the opening of the trial on the January 2015 attacks.
On September 25, a chopper attack in front of the former premises of the satirical newspaper in Paris left two people injured.
“About fifteen investigations” for facts of “apology for terrorism”, “death threats” or “provocation” to crime have been opened since the assassination of the professor, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.