France on Wednesday pays tribute to a history teacher who was beheaded in a quiet suburb of Paris when President Emmanuel Macron promised to intensify a squeeze on Islamist extremism.
Police have carried out dozens of raids, while the government has ordered the closure of a mosque for six months and plans to disband a group that supports the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
“Our fellow citizens expect action,” Macron said during a visit to a Paris suburb on Tuesday. “These actions will be intensified.”
Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher, was attacked on Friday on his way home from secondary school, where he was teaching in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers northwest of Paris.
On Wednesday night, Macron attends an official memorial service with Paty’s family and about 400 guests at the Sorbonne University, posthumously giving the teacher France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur.
Paty had been the subject of an online hate campaign since showing students’ cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during the hour of free speech – the same images that sparked a bloody attack on officials in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo when they were originally published five years ago.
Seven people, including two minors, are appearing before a judge on terrorism on Wednesday for possible charges in Paty’s case, according to a legal source. Nine other people were released Tuesday night.
The killer Abdullakh Anzorov – an 18-year-old native of the Russian region of Chechnya – was shot by police shortly after the attack.
A disgruntled parent who had fired up anger over Pathy’s lesson through messages on social media had exchanged messages on WhatsApp with Anzorov in the days before the murder.
The material he uploaded was widely shared, including by a mosque in the northern Paris suburb of Pantin.
The head of the mosque, M’hammed Henniche, said he had shared the video for fear of Muslim children being designated in the class.
But the government has now earmarked his mosque for a six-month closure – one of its most significant features after days of raids and harsh rhetoric.
Macron said a pro-Hamas group called the Cheikh Yassine Collective would be dissolved for being “directly involved” in the assassination, adding that a formal decision would be made at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The group’s founder, Islamist radical Abdelhakim Sefrioui, is being held by police for posting a video on YouTube insulting Paty.
Macron has also added an international dimension to his efforts against extremism, asking Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for enhanced cooperation in the fight against terrorism during a phone call on Tuesday.
Russia has dropped all ties to the killer, saying Anzorov had never been in contact with their officials and had left the country more than a decade ago.
‘A real nuisance’
Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack claimed in revenge for Prophet Mohammed’s revenge since a trial began last month over the 2015 Charlie Hebdo killings, when 12 people, including cartoonists, were shot down to publish Mohammed cartoons.
The role of social media platforms has once again come into the spotlight after much of the anger against Paty was whipped up on Facebook.
Paty’s teaching colleagues said in a statement that they were deeply concerned about the impact of social networks, which they called “a real scourge” for their profession.
The government has promised to create a new criminal act that will punish anyone who threatens another person by publishing their information online, and ministers on Tuesday held talks with French heads of social networks to discuss the fight against “cyber-Islamism”.
The killing has led to an outflow of sentiment and solidarity in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies over the weekend across the country.
Parliament observed a minute of silence on Tuesday, and thousands gathered for a quiet march in honor of the teacher in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine that evening.
The next issue of Charlie Hebdo, meanwhile, will have the headline “The beheaded republic” on the front page along with cartoons representing various professions, said weekly Tuesday.
“These killers want to behead democracy itself,” read editorial published Wednesday.