France’s Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office said authorities arrested nine suspects, including the teenager’s grandfather, parents and 17-year-old brother, on Friday while investigating the murder of Samuel Patty in Conflance-Sainte-Honoraine.
Police officials said that Patty discussed with her class the Prophet Muhammad’s caricature of Islam, leading to the threat.
Islam banned images of the Prophet, saying they lead to idolatry. The officers could not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.
French counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said an investigation was opened for the murder with a suspected terrorist motive.
Richard told reporters that the Moscow-born suspect, who received a 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which ejects from plastic bullets.
His step sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Ricard said. He did not give his name, and it is unclear where he is now.
The prosecutor said that a text claiming responsibility and a photo of the victim was found on the suspect’s phone.
He also confirmed that a Twitter account named Abdulakh-e was related to the suspect. A picture has been posted of the decapitated head minutes after the attack with the message “I have killed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”
Rickard said students at the suspect school were seen asking about the teacher, and the headmaster received several threatening phone calls.
The Mauns marched near the school in solidarity today, with signs that read “I am a teacher.”
“We will lift ourselves together because of our sense of solidarity,” said Laurent Bros, mayor of Conflance-Saint-Honorin.
A police officer said the suspect was shot at about 600 yards from where Patty died. The police opened fire after failing to respond to orders to stop weapons and acting in a threatening manner. The officer could not be named due to the ongoing investigation.
French President Emmanuel Macron went to school on Friday night to denounce what he called an “Islamic terrorist attack”. He urged the nation to unite against extremism.
“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught … freedom of expression, freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said.
President Elysee Palace announced that a national ceremony would take place at a future date in tribute to Patty.
In a recent video posted on Twitter, a man described himself as the father of a student, saying that Patty had shown an image of a naked man and told students that it was “a Prophet of Muslims.”
Before showing the image, the teacher asked Muslim children to raise their hands and leave the room as they planned to show something shocking, the man said. “What was the message that he wanted to send to these children? What is this hate? The man asked. The AP has not been able to independently confirm these claims.
Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus. The two wars created a wave of emigration in the 1990s, with many Chechis heading for Western Europe. Since waging a Russian military war against Islamist separatists in Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, France has offered asylum to many Chechens.
Chechnya’s strong regional leader Ramadan Kadyrov, who has used large-scale federal subsidies to rebuild the province and sidelined any resistance with his fearsome security forces, condemned the teacher’s murder, but the sentiments of Muslims Also warned against offending.
“We condemn this act of terror and express our condolences to the kin of the person killed,” Kadirov said in his blog. “Speaking categorically against any disclosure of terrorism, I also urge the provocation of believers, not to hurt their feelings.”
He criticized French society for what he described as an expression of “provocative” disrespect for Islamic values. “When France has a proper state institution of inter-ethnic and interfaith relations, the country will have a healthy society.”
Kadyrov mentioned that Chechen had to visit the area once when he was only 2 years old.
This is the second time in three weeks that terror has linked France to the imprisonment of Prophet Mohammed. Last month, a Pakistani youth was arrested outside the former Charlie Hebdo offices after attacking two men with a meat cleaver.
The Weekly was the target of a murderous newsroom attack in 2015, and the Prophet’s footsteps were republished this month to underline the right to freedom of information as a trial involving that attack.
Friday’s terror attack came as Macron’s government is working on a bill to address Islamic fundamentalists, which officials claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.
Elaine Ganley contributed to this report.