A knifeman has killed a teacher and wounded three others at a high school in Arras, northern France, in what is being investigated as a terrorist attack. President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Gambetta High School was “killed by the terror of Muslims” and praised the courage of the school staff and the police who quickly removed the attacker.
France raised its security alert to the highest level on Friday evening. Police are still investigating the cause of the attack and have arrested a suspect.
A French official said the attacker, of Chechen origin, shouted “Allahu akbar” during the incident and was on a watch list of people known to pose a security risk linked to radical Islamism. He was also a student at the school.
A police officer said the brother of the alleged attacker was arrested at a nearby high school.
KNIFE ATTACK ARRAS HIGH SCHOOL
The profile of the suspect and his family could spark controversy amid the national debate over immigration law. The family arrived in France as asylum seekers from Russia in 2008 and were subject to an deportation order in 2014, which they successfully fought.
Many of them are on the terrorist watch list of the French intelligence services, and the younger brother of the accused is currently in prison for terrorist plots. The suspect was recently detained and questioned by the police and released on Thursday, the Interior Minister said.
Macron’s government has been working for months on a bill that would make it easier to deport people illegally from the country, but has not yet had the vote needed to pass the measure.
Speaking in Arras, Macron drew parallels to another violent attack that rocked France when a Chechen Muslim gunned down a 47-year-old teacher, Samuel Paty. A history teacher, Paty was targeted for teaching a lesson on freedom of speech that included showing students caricatures representing the Prophet Mohammed.
Teacher killed in knife attack at French school
“Almost three years to the day after the assassination of Samuel Paty, it was once again at school that terrorism attacked, and in a situation we all know,” Macron said.
Although Macron has no direct link, he appears to be referring to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which French officials fear will have an impact on France. About half a million Jews live in France, which is also home to many Muslims. In the past, the outbreak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to an increase in anti-Semitic activities against the country’s Jews.
The turmoil in the Middle East, including the civil war in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, has also included a series of attacks in France that have killed hundreds of people. The worst was the 2015 attack in which Islamic State terrorists shot moviegoers at the Bataclan theater and street cafes. It remains unclear whether Friday’s attack was anti-Semitic in nature, and little is known about the victims.
Macron called for national unity in a televised speech on Thursday evening. “Let us not divide the nation and divide the nations and let us not fall into any form of hatred,” he said.
In Arras, he promised that the school will reopen for its usual session on Saturday: “The choice is made so that we do not fall into fear, that nothing separates us. We must also remember how important schools are in the fight against false religion. ”
Speaking on Friday evening, anti-terrorism lawyer Jean-François Ricard indicated that the investigation was continuing and that “many people have been arrested”.
The National Assembly closed its session in response to the killing and held a minute’s silence to remember the victims. But the political crisis started soon after that. Right-wing politician Jordan Bardella criticized Macron’s record on immigration and security and called for the interior minister to resign. Right-wing politician Olivier Marleix said: “This new attack shows the impotence of our state in the face of the scourge of Islamists.”