President Emmanuel Macron promised Wednesday that France will not renounce freedoms taught by a schoolteacher beheaded by a radical Islamist last week after showing caricatures of Muhammad to his class.
At a national memorial at the Sorbonne in central Paris, Macron praised history teacher Samuel Paty as the “face of the Republic” who “believed in knowledge.”
Paty, 47, was beheaded on Friday by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee. The killer was in turn shot dead by police.
“Samuel Paty … became the face of the Republic, of our will to shatter terrorists, to [do away with] Islamists, to live like a community of free citizens in our country,” Macron said. “We will continue.”
A ceremonial military guard carried the teacher’s coffin into the cobblestone courtyard of the Sorbonne where the memorial took place before his family, government members and select guests. A giant screen was installed outside to broadcast the proceedings.
The ceremony, with readings that included a poem by Albert Camus, came hours after the prosecutor sketched out how the teenager came to kill Paty with the suspected help of two students at the school in a northwest Paris suburb.
Jean-Francois Ricard said a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old are among seven people taken before an investigating magistrate on accusations of “complicity in murder in relation with a terrorist undertaking” and “criminal conspiracy.”
The killer offered students at the school 300-350 euros ($355-$415) to help him pick out Paty, Ricard said during a news conference.
“The investigation has established that the perpetrator knew the name of the teacher, the name of the school and its address, yet he did not have the means to identify him,” the prosecutor said.
“That identification has only been possible with the help of students from the same school.”
He said the implication of the two adolescents “appeared to be conclusive.”
Authorities have identified the killer as Abdoullakh Anzorov, a Moscow-born refugee.
Anzorov claimed responsibility in a text accompanied by a photograph of the victim found on his phone.
The other suspects include a student’s father who posted videos on social media that called for mobilization against the teacher and an Islamist activist who helped the man disseminate the virulent messages, which named Paty and gave the school’s address, Ricard said.
Two more men, aged 18 and 19, are accused of accompanying the attacker when he bought the weapons, including a knife and an airsoft gun, the prosecutor said.
One of them allegedly drove Anzorov, who lived in the Normandy town of Evreux, near the school about three hours before the killing.
Another 18-year-old suspect had close contacts with the attacker and endorsed radical Islam, Ricard said.
All three of them, who were friends of Anzorov, allegedly said that “he was ‘radicalizing’ for several months, marked by a change of behavior, physical appearance, isolation, an assiduous frequenting of the mosque and ambiguous remarks about [jihad] and the Islamic State group.”
On Wednesday morning, the French government issued an order to dissolve a domestic militant Islamic group, the Collective Cheikh Yassine.
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said it was “implicated, linked to Friday’s attack.” Other groups will be dissolved “in the coming weeks,” Attal said.
Named after a slain leader of the Palestinian Hamas, Collective Cheikh Yassine was founded in the early 2000s by the Islamist activist who is among the seven people accused of being accomplices to the attacker.
Attal also confirmed that the government ordered a mosque in the northeast Paris suburb of Pantin to close for six months.
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