Demonstrators across France rally in tribute to beheaded teacher


France’s prime minister joined demonstrators on Sunday who rallied together across the country in tribute to a history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class.

Samuel Paty was beheaded on Friday in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee who was shot dead by police.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex stood with citizens, associations and unions demonstrating Sunday on the Place de la Republique in Paris in support of freedom of speech and in memory of the 47-year-old slain teacher.

Some held placards reading “I am Samuel” that echoed the “I am Charlie” rallying cry after the 2015 attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. A moment’s silence was observed across the square, broken by applause and a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Demonstrators also gathered in major cities including Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.

French authorities, meanwhile, say they have detained an 11th person following the killing.

Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive was opened. At least four of those detained are family members of the attacker, who had been granted 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March. He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets.

His half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Ricard said. He didn’t give her name, and it wasn’t clear where she is now.

The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone. He also confirmed that a Twitter account under the name Abdoulakh A belonged to the suspect. It posted a photo of the decapitated head minutes after the attack along with the message: “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”

WATCH | French president visits scene where police fatally shot man who killed teacher:

President Emmanuel Macron was among a group of onlookers and police who gathered on a street outside Paris where police shot and killed a man who minutes earlier had killed a middle school teacher. 0:51

The beheading has upset moderate French Muslims, and a group of imams in the Lyon region were to hold a special meeting Sunday to discuss what the group called “the appalling assassination of our compatriot by a terrorist who in the name of an uncertain faith committed the irreparable.”

The head of the world’s largest body of Muslim-majority nations has also condemned the killing. In a statement Sunday by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Co-operation, the office of the general secretary, Yousef al-Othaimeen, reiterated the OIC’s “well-known position of rejecting all forms of extremism, radicalization and terrorism for any reason or motive.”



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