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French schoolteacher killer claimed attack for Islamic terror group: prosecutor

French schoolteacher killer claimed attack for Islamic terror group: prosecutor
Flowers for murdered teacher Dominique Bernard outside the school in Arras where he was killed. (Photo by Denis Charlet / AFP)

The man who killed a schoolteacher in northern France last week has been charged with terror offences and had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group in an audio recording before his attack, a prosecutor has revealed.

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The country raised its terror alert level following Friday's fatal attack.

The suspected attacker, Mohammed Moguchkov, 20, from the mainly Muslim region of Ingushetia in Russia's North Caucasus, was charged with murder linked to a terrorist conspiracy, as well as associating with terrorist criminals, by an anti-terror judge. He was remanded into custody.

Moguchkov had "sworn allegiance to the Islamic State" in a long audio recording, prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told reporters in Paris, adding that further information had been gleaned from people close to him and a video recorded before the assault.

A source familiar with the case said he had made a "very marginal" reference to Gaza in a video following the attack on Israel by Hamas.

His 16-year-old brother also appeared before the judge, suspected of having "provided him with some support" before he stabbed Dominique Bernard, 57, at
his former school in Arras, about 180 kilometres north of Paris, said Ricard.

The teenager was charged and placed in pre-trial detention, lawyer Ambroise Vienet-Legue told AFP.

Their 15-year-old cousin was also charged. He is suspected of having been "informed of the plan" without doing anything to prevent it, according to Ricard. He is subject to a provisional judicial educational intervention, the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office said.

Bernard's killing came almost exactly three years after another teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded by an Islamist radical from Russia's southern region of Chechnya, which borders the Ingushetia region where Moguchkov was born.

Heightened security

France raised its security level after Friday's attack and deployed 7,000 troops.

There have since been several bomb threats at public buildings - one at the Arras high school and two at the Palace of Versailles.

Two Swedes were killed in neighbouring Belgium by a Tunisian man also claiming inspiration from the Islamic State group, prompting politicians to warn of a wider threat.

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"All European states are vulnerable," French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Tuesday.

He said "Islamist terrorism" had returned, adding: "We all have a vulnerability. It's what comes with being a democracy, a rule-of-law state where there are individuals who can decide at a given moment to commit the worst acts."

But Macron, who is set to attend schoolteacher Bernard's funeral on Thursday, stressed he had seen "no failures" by French security services ahead of the stabbing in Arras.

The French government has brought forward to December a parliamentary debate on a planned immigration bill, which it says will also act as a response to terrorism.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin's office said he was considering adding to the bill measures that would allow any immigrant who "adheres to a jihadist ideology" to be stripped of their residency.

Expulsions

France, which has large Muslim and Jewish populations, has been on alert since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

Darmanin said on Monday that 102 people had been arrested for anti-Semitic acts or expressing support for terrorism since the assault.

Moguchkov, who reportedly arrived in France aged five, was already on a national register as a potential security threat and under surveillance by France's France's domestic intelligence agency, the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (DGSI).

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His father, who was also on the list, was deported in 2018.

Macron has called on police to comb through their files of radicalised people who could be deported. An aide said that the President had told Darmanin to focus especially on young men from the Caucasus region of Russia.

The interior ministry said it would seek to expel 11 Russians who were on an official list of dangerous radicals.

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