Teacher killed in knife attack in France, officials launch terrorism probe

Teacher killed in knife attack in France, officials launch terrorism probe

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A teacher was killed and two people seriously injured in a stabbing at a French high school Friday morning — an incident that is being investigated as a potential terrorist attack.

The stabbing took place in Arras, a city in northern France about 30 miles from the Belgian border. The perpetrator was arrested, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said.

French President Emmanuel Macron later joined Darmanin at the school, lamenting that an educational establishment had been “hit once again by the barbarity of Islamic terrorism.”

Witnesses said the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is greatest,” in Arabic. Several French media outlets, citing unnamed sources, said that the suspect was a man of Chechen origin who was under active surveillance by French intelligence agencies, raising questions about whether there had been an intelligence or policing failure.

The suspect’s brother was detained near another school, according to Le Parisien.

The attack immediately recalled the case of Samuel Paty, a history and civics teacher who was decapitated in a Paris suburb nearly three years ago by a Chechen refugee, sparking a national debate about the influence of radical Islam.

“Three years after the assassination of Samuel Paty, horror once again strikes the educational community,” tweeted Laurent Brosse, mayor of the town where that previous attack took place. “The terrorist act in #Arras brings back painful memories to us.”

Martin Doussau, a philosophy teacher at the Gambetta high school in Arras, said the attacker asked him specifically if he was a history teacher Friday. That’s when “I understood it was a political act,” he told BFM television.

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Fabien Dufay, a physical education teacher at the school, told BFM television that he recognized the attacker as a former student at the school, describing him as “calm” and an “average student.”

Macron lauded the courage of a teacher who intervened and “undoubtedly saved many lives,” as well as the responsiveness of the police, who arrived “four minutes after the call” and prevented the episode from becoming even deadlier.

The French Council of Muslim Faith condemned the “murderous and abject attack,” adding that the “Allahu akbar” expression “erected by some as a slogan of cowardice and terrorist barbarity, has been dangerously overused, whereas in the Muslim spiritual tradition it is the symbol of the humility of Man before God.”

After a spate of high-profile terrorist attacks that put France on high alert and led to expanded powers for police, France has seen relatively few incidents in recent years. Earlier this year, a Syrian national stabbed four toddlers and two adults at a playground in southeastern France, an attack that Macron described as an act of “absolute cowardice.”

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