The victim was Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher at a secondary school in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine area, according to the French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer. Blanquer said Saturday that Paty was murdered “for teaching a class that had to do with one of the pillars of democracy — freedom of expression.”
“Samuel Paty embodied our Republic’s most noble asset: its schools. He was cowardly murdered by enemies of freedom. We will be united, firm and resolute,” Blanquer wrote in a tweet.
The alleged attacker was shot dead by police on Friday afternoon in Éragny, the same area where the victim’s body was found. Nine individuals have been taken in for questioning in relation to the attack, including the suspect’s parents, grandfather and brother, the judicial source added.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the teacher was a “victim of an Islamist attack.” Speaking at the scene of the attack, Macron said the educator was “killed because he was teaching students freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe.”
Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of one of the pupils at the school, told Agence France-Presse that the teacher had taken the Muslim children out of the class before showing the caricatures. “My son told me that it was just to preserve them, it was out of pure kindness, because he had to show a caricature of the prophet of Islam and simply said to the Muslim children: ‘Go out, I don’t want it to hurt your feelings,’ that’s what my son told me,” he said.
Police have provided few other details about the attacker, the victim or the incident. The anti-terror prosecutor’s office, which has taken over the investigation of the attack, has not spoken publicly about a motive.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmamin said on Twitter that he was “keeping himself directly informed” of the situation “from the crisis room (he) had opened, in liaison with the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.”
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer described the attack as a “despicable assassination of one of its servants, a teacher,” and said his thoughts were with the family of the victim.
Friday’s attack comes as a trial continues relating to a series of January 2015 terrorist attacks which began with a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices following the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.