France honours teacher killed in terror attack

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France honours teacher killed in terror attack
Pupils at a school in Marseille take part in a minute's silence. Photo AFP

French schools on Monday held a minute's silence for a teacher killed last week in what the government called an Islamist terror attack, with the president urging a "ruthless" response to extremists.


The knife assault on Friday in the northern city of Arras, almost three years to the day after a similar killing of a teacher near Paris, has shocked the public and triggered a massive security response.

Adding to the tension, the same Arras school was evacuated Monday over a bomb threat, although officials later said the alert had been lifted.

French President Emmanuel Macron has told ministers to "embody a state that is ruthless towards all those who harbour hate and terrorist ideologies", a senior aide told reporters.


The president later wrote that schools would remain a "bulwark" against extremism and "a sanctuary for our pupils and everyone who works there" in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

The killing of the teacher by a former pupil has sharpened nervousness in France, which has large Muslim and Jewish populations and has been on the alert for violence since Hamas's attack on Israel.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Monday that 102 people had been arrested for anti-Semitic acts or expressing support for terrorism since the October 7th assault.

Classes paused for the minute of silence at 2pm to remember French teacher Dominique Bernard, 57. He was stabbed to death at the school in Arras in an attack that also wounded three other adults.

Early lessons were cancelled in middle and high schools on Monday to allow teachers to discuss the attack and how to deal with it in front of pupils.

"It was very important for us to meet, it lowers tensions because as teachers, we're very alone," said Benjamin Marol, a history teacher at a school in Montreuil just outside Paris.

Bernard was killed almost three years to the day after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his school in a Paris suburb, on October 16th, 2020.

The families of Paty's killer and the suspected Arras assailant both hail from Russia's North Caucasus region.

Police have named Friday's suspected perpetrator as Mohammed Moguchkov, 20. He was born in the predominantly Muslim republic of Ingushetia and reportedly arrived in France aged five.

The suspect, who reportedly cried "Allahu akbar!" (God is greatest) during the attack, has been detained but has not yet spoken, according to a police source.


He was already on a French national register as a potential security threat and under surveillance by France's domestic intelligence agency, the DGSI. His father, who was also on the list, was deported in 2018.

Three years ago, Paty was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov, a radicalised refugee born in Moscow to ethnic Chechen parents. Like Ingushetia, Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim republic in Russia.

Anzorov, who had come to France as a six-year-old, was shot dead by police at the scene.

Macron has called on police to comb through their files of radicalised people who could be deported.

Darmanin said 193 such cases would be reexamined.

Macron has told Darmanin to focus especially on "young men between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Caucasus", his aide said.


Friday's killing has led to calls for tighter security at schools. The government has already put the country on high alert and deployed 7,000 troops.

More than 260 people have been killed in France since 2012 in assaults blamed on, or claimed by, Islamist radicals - from mass killings in Paris and Nice in 2015 and 2016, to individual murders of teachers, police officers or a priest.

The string of violent incidents has kept security and immigration issues at the forefront of political debate.

On Monday, Assemblée nationale speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, who belongs to Macron's Renaissance party, said a draft immigration law should be voted through by the end of the year.

The bill provides that "people who are not integrated, who are radicalised, who swear ferocious hatred against the (French) republic... must indeed be able to be removed", she told broadcaster France 2.

Resistance to the draft law has come from the conservative Republicans, who reject other provisions allowing for the regularisation of some migrants without residence permits.


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