Beheading in France shocks nation

47-year-old French history and geography teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in public on the 16th October in the Paris suburb of Éragny by 18-year-old Chechen refugee Abdullakh Anzorov after showing students a picture of the Prophet Muhammed 10 days before to teach the class about freedom of expression. Anzorov was shot dead by French police.

The lesson sparked controversy leading up to the murder, with one pupil’s father lobbying for Paty’s dismissal and speaking out in a video on Facebook, thereby identifying him. He has been accused of orchestrating a campaign of hate towards Paty which had a “direct causal link” to his murder. The man exchanged several text messages with the killer prior to the attack.

Anzorov allegedly paid two boys, aged 14 and 15, around €300 to identify the teacher, and waited for Paty outside the school for almost two hours. Three friends assisted in acquiring the weapon and driving him to the school. These six people have been charged with complicity in a terrorist murder.

Thousands gathered in and around the Place de la République in Paris on the 18th, to celebrate free speech. Students and members of the public have held memorials outside the Bois d’Aulne school where Paty taught.

President Macron released a statement, saying Paty “was killed because the Islamists want our future. They know that with quiet heroes like him, they will never have it” and that France “will not give up caricatures, drawings, even if others back down.” He presented the teacher’s family with the nation’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur.

In response, Macron has outlawed Hamas-inspired Islamist group ‘the Sheikh Yassin Collective,’ French Police have launched a series of raids on Islamist networks with 40 homes targeted and the Minister of the Interior of France said 51 organisations, including charities and NGOs, would be inspected by government officials and closed down if they were found to be promoting hatred. Grand Mosque of Pantin has been temporarily closed after sharing a video criticizing Paty. Police will also be interviewing around 80 people who posted messages in support of the killing.

France has been a target of Islamist terrorism in recent history. Since the start of 2015, when the Charlie Hebdo attacks killed 12 and injured 11 with firearms for publishing a cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammed, there have been 70 violent terror attacks in France that have resulted in 271 deaths and 824 injuries.


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Jim Gell

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December 2021
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