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France terror attack: Chechen teen ‘asked pupils to point out victim’ before beheading teacher

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The teenage man suspected of beheading a teacher in France approached pupils in the street and asked them to point out the victim, anti-terrorist authorities have said.

The suspect, an 18-year-old Chechen, was shot dead by police following the brutal knife attack on Samuel Paty, 47, outside a school in a Paris suburb on Friday evening.

The Russian-born teen posted a photo of the teacher’s body on Twitter after the incident saying he had carried out the killing, prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told a news conference on Saturday.

Mr Ricard told reporters that the suspect had been granted a 10-year French residency as a refugee in March and was not known to intelligence services.

Police at the scene where the suspect was shot dead after his attack on the history teacher (Getty Images)

A police official said the teenager was shot dead about 600 yards from where his victim was killed in the commune of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun – which fires plastic pellets – and police opened fire after he failed to respond to orders to put down his weapons, and acted in a threatening manner.

Investigating authorities have now arrested nine suspects, including the grandparents, parents and 17-year-old brother of the suspected attacker.

Charlie Hebdo to republish Muhammad cartoons to mark attack trial

The attack is believed to have been terror related and motivated by fury after Mr Paty discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, officials said.

The history teacher had received threats since showing the caricatures to pupils around 10 days ago, police told the Associated Press.

The parent of a student had filed a complaint against the teacher, one officer told the agency.

Emmanuel Macron decries ‘Islamist terrorist attack’

French president Emmanuel Macron arrived quickly at the school on Friday night to denounce what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack”. He urged the nation to stand united against extremism.

Mr Macron said: “One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught … the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.”

Other French leaders offered messages of sadness, but also of hope in the hours after the drama.

“We’ll pick ourselves up together, thanks to our spirit of solidarity,” said Laurent Brosse, mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, at a news conference.

“We are all affected, all touched by this vile assassination,” said French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer in a video message.

Mourners carried signs reading ‘Je suis Samuel’ in tribute to Mr Paty (AP)

The presidential Elysee Palace announced that there will be a national ceremony on a future date in homage to Mr Paty, about whom few details have so far emerged.

The French anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive.

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It is the second time in three weeks that terror has struck France linked to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Last month, a young man from Pakistan was arrested after stabbing two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The weekly was the target of a deadly newsroom attack in 2015, and it republished caricatures of the prophet this month to underscore the right to freedom of information as a trial opened linked to that attack.

Friday’s terror attack came as Mr Macron’s government works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside the values of the French Republic.

France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, and Islam is the country’s second-most popular religion.

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