PARIS: A history teacher beheaded in a Paris suburb on Friday had been the target of online threats for showing pupils sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in class, France’s anti-terror prosecutor said on Saturday.

The father of a schoolgirl had sought 47-year-old teacher Samuel Paty’s dismissal and launched an online call for “mobilisation” against him after the lesson on freedom of expression, Jean-Francois Ricard said in a televised news conference.

Paty was decapitated outside his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of the capital, and the killer was fatally wounded by police.

The Russian embassy in Paris said the suspect was Abdullakh Anzorov, whose family had arrived in France when he was six and requested asylum.

The 18-year-old had received a residence permit this year, according to the embassy, and had no links with Russia.

The schoolgirl’s father and a known Islamist militant are among nine people arrested in the case.

Ricard said the school received threats after the class in early October, which featured the controversial sketches.

The girl and her father lodged a criminal complaint against the teacher, who in turn filed a complaint of defamation, said Ricard.

The aggrieved father named Paty and gave the school’s address in a social media post just days before the beheading which President Emmanuel Macron has labelled an Islamist terror attack.

And early this week, he posted a video in which he said Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) had been insulted at the school.

Known militant

Ricard did not say if the attacker had any links to the school, pupils or parents, or had acted independently in response to the online campaign.

Witnesses said he was spotted at the school on Friday afternoon asking pupils where he could find Paty.

A photograph of Paty and a message confessing to his murder were found on the assailant’s mobile phone.

The prosecutor said the attacker had been armed with a knife, an airgun and five canisters. He had fired shots at police and tried to stab them as they closed in on him. He was in turn shot nine times, said Ricard.

This was the second such attack since a trial started last month into the January 2015 massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, which had earlier published sketches of the Prophet (PBUH) that unleashed a wave of anger across the Muslim world.

The magazine republished the sketches in the run-up to the trial, and last month a young man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside Charlie Hebdo’s former Paris offices.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020