French prosecutors on Saturday revealed more details about the brutal murder and decapitation of a 47-year-old history teacher in suburban Paris in what is a suspected Islamist attack.
The alleged perpetrator, who was killed by police shortly after the crime, was born in Moscow in 2002 and was of Russian and Chechen origin. France granted him refugee status earlier this year, prosecutor Jean-Francois Richard told a press conference.
He was not on the radar of secret services, according to Richard.
The teacher was on his way home from school when he was ambushed by the perpetrator, who was armed with a knife and an airsoft pistol.
The victim had multiple wounds on his upper body and head, and had been found decapitated in public, according to Richard.
A 30-centimetre blood-stained knife had been found by police near the crime scene in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Prosecutors say the teacher and school had been threatened before Friday's attack, after he had shown caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression in early October.
A father of a pupil had published posts on social media and complained to the school about the incident. According to media reports, the father had been accompanied to the school by a well-known Islamist. Both men are now in police custody.
Another father of a 13-year-old told France Inter that the teacher asked Muslim students if they wanted to leave the room before he showed the images.
The teacher was not "condescending or disrespectful," he said.
Photo posted in Twitter
After the teacher's killing, the alleged perpetrators posted a photo of the victim. The public prosecutor quoted the tweet: "I executed one of your hellhounds who had dared to disparage Mohammed."
Nine people were in police custody on Saturday in connection to the killing. According to reports, those arrested are said to be members of the alleged perpetrator's family as well as others.
President Emmanuel Macron, who went to the scene of the crime on Friday evening, came out strongly in support of teachers and said that the fact a teacher was attacked was no coincidence, calling it an attack on French values. A national commemoration is being planned, according to sources in the Elysee.
Macron has recently focused on education as a central element in the fight against radicalization, including putting strict limits on home-schooling and making education compulsory from the age of 3.
Multiple people took to the streets across France on Saturday to show solidarity with the teacher. "In solidarity with its teachers, the State will react with the greatest firmness so that the Republic and its citizens live, free!" said Prime Minister Jean Castex on Twitter.
A series of attacks
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote that her thoughts were with teachers in France and across Europe, saying that "without them, there are no citizens. Without them, there is no democracy."
The public prosecutor's anti-terrorism detectives have taken over the investigation, which Macron has dubbed an Islamist act of terrorism.
A series of attacks in France, many claimed by the Islamic State terrorist organization, cost more than 230 lives in 2015 and 2016.
Suspects accused of links to the attacks in January 2015, in which gunmen killed 17 people mainly at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, are also currently before the courts in a trial that is expected to run until mid-November.
Charlie Hebdo, whose former office was the site of a cleaver attack just a few weeks ago over a cartoon of Mohammed, expressed its feelings of "horror and revolt" on Twitter over the teacher's death.