France opens anti-terror probe after teacher killed in school knife attack

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France opens anti-terror probe after teacher killed in school knife attack
French police officers at the Lycee Gambetta in Arras, northeastern France on October 13, 2023, after a teacher was killed and two other people severely wounded in a knife attack. Photo by Denis CHARLET / AFP

France has opened an anti-terror probe after a teacher was killed and two other people seriously injured in a knife attack in a school on Friday morning, while Emmanuel Macron said that security services had foiled another attempted attack in another part of France.


Emmanuel Macron has condemned the "barbarity of Islamist terrorism" on a visit to the site of the terror attack at a lycée (high school) in Arras, northern France.

The teacher had "undoubtedly saved many lives" in facing down the attacker, Macron said, calling on France to stay "united" in the face of the attack, adding that a second attack had been prevented in another part of France.

The attacker in Arras was a man in his 20s - reported to be a former pupil - who entered the school armed with several knives on Friday morning. He has been arrested.

LATEST What we know so far about the French school attack

A police source told AFP that he shouted 'Allahu akbar' during the attack, adding that he was of Chechen origin and had been 'fiché S' - placed on a watchlist for extremism - and was under active surveillance by the French security services.

Anti-terror police confirmed that they are leading the investigation. 

No pupils at the Lycée Gambetta-Carnot d’Arras were hurt in the attack. 


One pupil told local paper La Voix du Nord: "We were leaving class to go to the canteen when we saw the guy with two knives attacking the teacher, who had blood on him. He tried to calm him down and protect us. He told us to leave, but we didn't really understand, so we ran and others went back upstairs."

A philosophy teacher who witnessed the attack, Martin Dousseau, described a moment of panic during break-time, when the schoolchildren found themselves face-to-face with the armed man.

"He attacked canteen staff. I wanted to go down to intervene, he turned to me, chased me and asked me if I was a history and geography teacher," said Dousseau. "We barricaded ourselves in, then the police arrived and immobilised him."

A male teacher died and two other people were wounded - a second teacher received less serious injuries while a non-teaching member of staff was stabbed multiple times and is now in a critical condition.

The teacher who died has been named as Dominique Bernard, a French teacher in his 50s. 

A large security cordon was set up around the school in the aftermath, where the police, firefighters and emergency services were deployed, AFP journalists said.

Parents gathered in front of the school, where the pupils were visible through the windows.

France has suffered a series of attacks by Islamist extremists since 2015.

Most recently, the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020 near his school in a Paris suburb by a radicalised Chechen refugee led to a wave of shock and renewed debate about the influence of radical Islam.

The attack in Arras comes almost three years to the day after the murder of Paty which took place on October 16th, 2020.

It also comes with tensions rising in France, which has large Jewish and Muslim communities, after last weekend's attack by Hamas on Israel.

Macron said in an address to the nation on Thursday that 582 religious and cultural facilities in France were receiving stepped-up police protection.

"Those who confuse the Palestinian cause and the justification of terrorism commit a strong moral, political and strategic error," he said.


There has also been controversy over the French government's ban on pro-Palestinian protests following the Hamas attack, with the left lamenting it was no longer possible to protest for peace but the right saying the measures did not go far enough.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Thursday ordered that the demonstrations be prohibited nationwide as they "are likely to generate disturbances to public order," adding that organisers should face arrest.


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