French police on Monday searched the homes of dozens of suspected Islamist militants three days after the beheading of a teacher who had shown his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the interior minister said.
The raids came a day after tens of thousands of people attended rallies nationwide to honor the slain French history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of speech.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the collection of Islamist networks was designed to send a message that “enemies of the republic” would not enjoy “a minute’s respite”.
Paty was beheaded Friday outside his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in the northern Paris suburbs, by an 18-year-old man who was subsequently shot by police.
The killing sparked outrage in France and led to condemnation from President Emmanuel Macron and political parties.
80 studies in progress
Darmanin said there were about 80 hate speech investigations online in France and that he was investigating whether certain groups from the French Muslim community should be disbanded after allegations of promoting violence and hatred.
“Police operations have taken place and more will take place involving tens of thousands of individuals,” he told Europe 1 radio.
A police source told Reuters late on Sunday that France was preparing to deport 231 foreigners on a government watch list on suspicion of extremist religious beliefs. It was not immediately clear if Monday’s operations were connected.
Earlier this month, Paty showed his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of speech and angered a number of Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any portrayal of the Prophet is blasphemous.
The attacker, who was of Chechen origin and was born in Russia, had lived in the city of Evreux northwest of Paris. He was not previously known to the intelligence services.
The killing shocked France and echoed an attack five years ago on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it published the cartoons.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)