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France to deploy 7,000 troops after teacher killed in school stabbing by suspected radical Islamist

The suspected attacker was a former student of the school and was reportedly under surveillance by French intelligence agencies for radicalisation. He is alleged to have shouted 'Allahu Akbar' during the attack, which killed a French language teacher and wounded three others.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Paris Published on: October 14, 2023 15:25 IST
Police stand guard outside Gambetta-Carnot school, where a
Image Source : AP Police stand guard outside Gambetta-Carnot school, where a teacher was stabbed to death

French authorities are on high alert after a deadly school stabbing in France where a teacher was killed by an ex-student suspected of Islamic radicalisation, as 7,000 soldiers will be mobilised to increase security across the country.

The accused armed with a knife stabbed a teacher to death and injured three others at the Gambetta-Carnot School in Arras city. The incident is being investigated as potential terrorism and brings back painful memories of the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020, who was killed for showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad to his students.

The suspected attacker is of Chechen origin who attended the school and had been under surveillance by intelligence agencies for radicalisation. He is currently under custody along with several others, according to prosecutors. Silman Hamzi, a police officer who arrived first on the scene, said that the attacker was a former student of the school and shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as he initiated the attack.

The deceased person has been identified as Dominique Bernard, a French language teacher at the Gambetta-Carnot school, which enrols students ages 11-18. Another teacher, a cleaning worker and a security guard were in critical condition with wounds from the stabbing, police and a counter-terrorism prosecutor said.

After the incident, the French government heightened the national threat alert and President Emmanuel Macron ordered up to 7,000 soldiers to be deployed across the country by Monday night until further notice to boost security and vigilance, his office said.

"The choice has been made not to give in to terror. We must not let anything divide us, and we must remember that schools and the transmission of knowledge are at the heart of this fight against ignorance," Macron said.

As the school reopened on Saturday, some children and personnel returned as police stood guard. Classes remained cancelled, but the school reopened for those who wanted to come together or seek support. The attack shook France amid global tensions following the war between Israel and Hamas.

On the other hand, the suspected attacker's motive remains unclear, and he is reportedly refusing to speak to investigators. He was detained on Thursday for questioning based on the monitoring of his phone calls in recent days, but investigators found no sign that he was preparing an attack, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Context of Israel-Hamas War

Meanwhile, French intelligence agencies suggested that there was a link between the Israel-Hamas war and the stabbing incident, according to Darmanin. At least 12 people have been detained near schools and places of worship since the Hamas attack.

Notably, France has the world's third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, and the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. Darmanin has banned pro-Palestinian protests due to unrest over the Israel-Hamas war and the rise in anti-semitic activities across the country.

Darmanin directed local authorities to further tighten security around Jewish schools, synagogues and other sites and said that pro-Palestinian demonstrations should be banned, and people who defy the ban to be arrested as they are "susceptible to disrupt public order".

The Macron government registered 24 arrests for over 100 anti-semitic actions in France since the Hamas attack on Saturday. Some people have been caught with knives near Jewish schools and a drone was spotted over a Jewish cultural centre. Over 2,000 cases of anti-semitic speech have been reported to an online watchdog force.

Notably, Macron said that 13 French citizens have been killed in Israel by the Hamas attack and 17 others are missing, believed to be captured and taken hostage by militants. An investigation has been launched by the Paris prosecutor's office into the suspected kidnappings.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | France: Teacher killed in school stabbing, terror attack suspected

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