PARIS – A student said he warned his teacher about showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, whom Muslims consider blasphemous, a few days before he was beheaded on a Parisian street in what French President Emmanuel Macron called an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
Luciela, 15, told NBC News that he was “shocked” by Friday afternoon’s attack in the middle-class suburb of Conflans-Saint-Honorine, northwest of the French capital.
“I didn’t expect to be beheaded – it went too far,” he said, speaking with his parents̵7; permission, shortly after the incident that killed his 47-year-old history teacher.
French counter-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard has identified the victim as Samuel P.
Ricard told reporters on Saturday that the perpetrator, whom he identified as Abdullah Abutezidovich A., was an 18-year-old Chechen refugee. He said he was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun fired from plastic pellets. He was shot dead by police shortly after the incident.
Ricard, who was born in Moscow, received a 10-year residence in France and was not known to the secret services.
The text of the statement of responsibility for the attack and a photo of the victim were found on the suspect’s phone, he said, adding that the suspect was seen at school and students were asked about the teacher, and the principal also received several threatening phone calls.
Ricard said that Samuel had received numerous injuries and that an investigation had been opened into the murder on suspicion of terrorism.
On Saturday morning, floral tributes were laid at the College of Bois d’Olne, where Samuel taught. Others held signs reading, “I am a teacher.”
Luisella’s student said he was in Samuel’s class earlier this month when a civilian teacher showed students cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015 that Muslims consider blasphemous. Islam forbids the images of the Prophet, claiming that they lead to idolatry.
“We told the teacher that it was not good to show such photos and that it would cause huge problems,” Luciela said. “It’s not a caricature that you have to show to the class, because there are Muslims in the class.”
Nine people have been taken into custody for questioning as part of the investigation, including four family members of the attackers, a spokesman for the French anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Samuel had “fallen victim to an Islamist attack” speaking from the scene late Friday.
“One of our compatriots was killed today because he was teaching and teaching students about freedom of speech,” Macron told reporters.
“Our compatriot was rudely attacked,” he said. “They will not win … We will act firmly and quickly. You can count on my determination.”
The attack came as Macron’s government continued to work on a bill targeting Islamic radicals. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, with up to 5 million members, and Islam is the country’s second largest religion.
Chechens make up part of this population. In the 1990s, two wars in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus, sparked a wave of emigration, and many fled to Western Europe.
Muslim leaders in France widely condemned Friday’s incident, which echoed an attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo five years ago. The publication published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, unleashing divisions that still cast their thoughts on French society.
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Less than a month ago, a Pakistani man cut down a meat grinder to attack and injured two people who were on a cigarette break near the offices where Charlie Hebdo was based at the time of the 2015 attack.
The controversy over the cartoons was revived last month when “Charlie Hebdo” decided to republish them to coincide with the start of the trial of the accomplices in the 2015 attack.
Al Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the killings, threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo again after it republished the cartoons.
Last month, the magazine said it had republished the image to defend its right to freedom of expression and show that violent attacks could not be silenced. This position was supported by many prominent French politicians and public figures.
Nancy Ing and Matt Bradley reported from Paris. Adela Suliman reported from London.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.