PARIS – A student said he warned his teacher to show caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, considered blasphemous by Muslims, days before he was beheaded on a Paris street in what French President Emmanuel Macron called an “Islamist terror attack” .
Martial Lusiela, 15, told NBC News he was “shocked” by the attack on Friday afternoon in the middle-class suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of the French capital.
“I wasn’t expecting a beheading – it went too far,” he said, speaking with his parents’ permission, shortly after the incident that left his 47-year-old history teacher dead.
French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard identified the victim as Samuel P.
Ricard told reporters on Saturday that the striker, who he identified as Abdoullakh Aboutezidovitch A., was an 1
Born in Moscow, the teenager had secured a 10-year residency in France and was not known to the secret services, Ricard said.
Text claiming responsibility for the attack and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone, he said, adding that the suspect had been seen at school asking students about the teacher, and the principal had also received several phone calls threatening.
Ricard said Samuel had sustained multiple injuries and a murder investigation had been opened with a suspected terrorist motive.
On Saturday morning, floral tributes were presented outside College Bois d’Aulne, where Samuel had taught. Others had signs saying: “I am a teacher”.
Student Luisela said he was in Samuel’s class earlier this month when the civics teacher showed pupils the caricatures published by Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015, which are considered blasphemous by Muslims. Islam forbids images of the prophet, claiming that they lead to idolatry.
“We told the teacher that it wasn’t cool to show pictures like this and that it would cause a big problem,” Lusiela said. “It’s not a caricature that you should show the class, because there are Muslims in the class.”
Nine people were arrested for questioning as part of the investigation, including four family members of the attackers, a spokesman for the French anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said Saturday.
French President Emmanuel Macron He said Samuel “was the victim of an Islamist terror attack,” speaking from the scene of the incident late Friday evening.
“One of our fellow citizens was murdered today for teaching, teaching students freedom of expression,” Macron told reporters.
“Our compatriot was flagrantly attacked,” he said. “They will not win … We will act. Firmly and quickly. You can count on my determination.”
The attack came as Macron’s government continues to work on a bill to target Islamic radicals. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, Islam being the second largest religion in the country.
Part of that population is made up of Chechens. In the 1990s, two wars in Chechnya, a Muslim-majority Russian republic in the North Caucasus, triggered a wave of emigration and many fled to Western Europe.
Muslim leaders in France broadly condemned Friday’s incident, which echoed the attack five years ago on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The outlet has published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, sparking divisions that are still casting a veil on French society.
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Less than a month ago, a man from Pakistan used a cleaver to attack and injure two people who were on a cigarette break outside the offices where Charlie Hebdo was staying at the time of the 2015 attack.
The controversy over the cartoons was resumed last month when Charlie Hebdo decided to re-publish them in conjunction with the trial of the accomplices of the 2015 attack.
Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that claimed responsibility for those killings, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after republishing the cartoons.
The magazine said last month that it republished the images to assert her right to freedom of expression and to show that she would not be intimidated by silence from violent attacks. This position was held by many prominent French politicians and public figures.
Nancy Ing and Matt Bradley reported from Paris. Adela Suliman reported from London.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.