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France teacher attack: Police raid homes of suspected Islamic radicals

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media captionRallies in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon and other French cities in support of Samuel Paty

French police have raided the homes of dozens of suspected Islamic radicals following the beheading of a teacher who showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.

Some of those being questioned are believed to have posted messages of support for the killer of Samuel Paty.

The government also said it was probing 51 French Muslim associations.

Mr Paty’s suspected killer was shot dead by police on Friday after the attack close to the teacher’s school.

The school is located in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a north-western suburb of Paris.

The suspect, an 18-year-old born in Moscow of Chechen origin, had no known connection to Mr Paty or the school.

What are the raids about?

On Monday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the latest raids sent a message that there was “no respite for enemies of the republic”, and that they were expected to continue all week.

He said that not all individuals targeted in the operations were necessarily linked to the investigations into Mr Paty’s death.

Meanwhile, police will interview about 80 people who are believed to have posted messages in support of Mr Paty’s killer, Mr Darmanin added.

The government said that if Muslim organisations under investigation were found to promote hatred, they would be closed down.

Mr Darmanin labelled one organisation, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an “enemy of the state”, and said he wanted to shut it down.

The organisation, which monitors anti-Muslim hate crime in France, has accused Mr Darmanin of slander after he claimed the group was “obviously” involved in Friday’s attack, according to AFP news agency.

In a statement following news of the attack, the CCIF expressed “our pain and our sadness to the family of this teacher”.

On Monday, a group of imams are expected to gather outside the school where Mr Paty worked.

image copyrightAFP

image captionSamuel Paty, a well-liked teacher, had been threatened over showing the cartoons

What’s the latest in the investigation?

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said Mr Paty had been the target of threats since he showed the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class about freedom of speech.

As he had done in similar lessons in recent years, Mr Paty, a history and geography teacher, advised Muslim students to look away if they thought they might be offended.

Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Muhammad and Allah (God).

The issue is particularly sensitive in France because of the famous publishing of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. A trial is currently underway over the killing of 12 people by Islamist extremists at the magazine offices in 2015.

Some French-Muslims say they are frequent targets of racism and discrimination because of their faith – an issue that has long caused tension in the country.

Eleven people have been arrested as part of the police investigation into Mr Paty’s murder. No more information on the arrests is available.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionPeople have laid flowers in tribute to Samuel Paty outside the school where was murdered

What has the reaction been in France?

The attack has shocked and horrified France. Thousands gathered at weekend rallies to honour Mr Paty with people carrying placards reading “Je suis enseignant” (I am a teacher).

At the Place de la République in Paris, one person carried a sign saying “zero tolerance to all enemies of the Republic”. Another person’s placard said, “I am a professor. I’m thinking of you, Samuel.”

Muslim leaders in France have condemned the attack. “A civilisation does not kill an innocent person, barbarism does,” Tareq Oubrou, imam of a mosque in Bordeaux, told France Inter.

The Strasbourg-based Assembly of Chechens in Europe said in a statement: “Like all French people, our community is horrified by this incident.”

President Emmanuel Macron said the attack bore all the hallmarks of an “Islamist terrorist attack” and the teacher had been murdered because he “taught freedom of expression”.

Islamists would not be allowed to sleep quietly in France, Mr Macron was quoted as saying in a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

image copyrightReuters

image captionOne banner read: “They will not behead the Republic”

In addition to Sunday’s demonstrations, there will be a national tribute paid to Mr Paty on Wednesday.

What happened in Friday’s attack?

Mr Ricard said that the suspect, who lived in the Normandy town of Évreux, about 100km (60 miles) from the murder scene, went to Mr Paty’s school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on Friday afternoon and asked students to point out the teacher.

The suspect followed Mr Paty as he walked home from work. He then used a knife to attack the teacher in the head, and then beheaded him.

media captionJean-Michel Blanquer: “What happened is beyond words”

Witnesses are said to have heard the attacker shout “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is Greatest”.

As police approached him, he fired at them with an airgun. Officers returned fire, hitting him nine times. A 30cm-long (12in) blade was found close by.

Authorities said the man had been before courts but only on minor misdemeanour charges.

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