France will prosecute seven people, including two teenagers, over the October 16 beheading of a history teacher, AFP reported on Wednesday, citing anti-terror authorities. Prosecutors have accused the teenagers – aged 14 and 15 – of pointing out the teacher to his killer.
Anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said the killer had paid the two teenagers $356 to $414 (Rs 26,212-Rs 30,484) to identify the teacher named Samuel Paty. The killer, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov originally from Chechnya, told the students that he wanted to “film the teacher [and] make him apologise for the cartoon of the Prophet [Muhammad]”, Ricard said at a press conference, according to BBC.
The prosecutor alleged that the teenagers stayed with Anzorov for more than two hours to help him identify the teacher, who had shown cartoons of Prophet Muhammad during a class discussion on free speech. Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
Others who face prosecution include the father of one of the students who allegedly started an online hate campaign against Paty, the prosecutor said, adding that his daughter was not in class when the teacher showed the pictures of Prophet Muhammad. Ricard also said that the father had exchanged messages with the killer.
The fourth suspect is identified as an Islamic radical who helped in the hate campaign. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has accused the two men, who were part of the online campaign, of issuing a “fatwa” against Paty.
The remaining three are friends of Anzorov friends. While one allegedly drove him to the crime scene, others helped him purchase a weapon.
Meanwhile, the police have raided around 40 houses and the government has shut down a mosque for six months outside Paris. It also dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective. They believe the collective supports Hamas, a militant organisation. Hamas, however, said it had “no links” with the organisation. The Sheikh Yassin Collective was founded by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, the radical who is in police custody.
Further, the government is mulling over the dissolution of over 50 organisations it believes has links to radical Islam.
French anti-terror prosecutors said the assault took place on the outskirts of Paris near a school in the western suburb of Conflans Saint-Honorine. They said they were treating the incident as “a murder linked to a terrorist organisation” and related to a “criminal association with terrorists”.
The assailant was gunned down about 600 meters from where the teacher was killed after he did not follow police orders to put down his knife and behaved in a threatening manner, the police said.
The teacher had received threats over “a debate” about the caricatures around 10 days ago, the police said. A parent of one of his pupils had filed a complaint against the teacher, another police official said. French President Emmanuel Macron called the incident an “Islamist attack”, urging citizens to stand up against extremism.
This was the second terrorism-related incident in France in the past month. The incidents have occurred amid an ongoing trial of fourteen people in the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack. The trial began on September 2. Twelve people, including eight of the magazine, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherie Kouachi stormed Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters. As the trial reopened, the magazine reprinted the Prophet Mohammed cartoons that had sparked an outrage and led to the 2015 attack.
The school said Paty had given Muslim children the option of leaving the classroom before he showed the cartoons.