Teacher killed in France after showing class caricatures of Muhammad

French police have shot dead a man who decapitated a teacher with a large kitchen knife near a school in a Paris suburb after he showed his class caricatures of the prophet Muhammad from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Officials announced immediately after the killing that it was being investigated by an anti-terror judge. President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday night that France’s battle against Islamic terrorism was “existential” and that the victim had been “assassinated”.

The victim was a 47-year-old history-geography professor – the subjects are taught together in France – but also gave the obligatory courses in “moral and civil education”. It was as part of these, and while talking about freedom of speech, that the professor showed pupils, aged 12 to 14, the caricatures. This sparked complaints from a number of parents and one family lodged a legal complaint.

The alarm was raised at 5pm on Friday when local police informed their national colleagues that a body had been found outside a school at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in the Yvelines, a suburb north-west of central Paris.

The killer was chased by police but refused to surrender and was shot several times and killed after reportedly threatening police. Officers sealed off the area after fears the assailant was wearing a suicide vest.

Anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the killing as an “assassination in connection with a terrorist organisation”.

After the contested lesson, an angry parent posted a video on YouTube complaining about the teacher. On Friday night, another parent posted below the video, defending the professor, writing: “I am a parent of a student at this college. The teacher just showed caricatures from Charlie Hebdo as part of a history lesson on freedom of expression. He asked the Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished, out of respect … He was a great teacher. He tried to encourage the critical spirit of his students, always with respect and intelligence. This evening, I am sad, for my daughter, but also for teachers in France. Can we continue to teach without being afraid of being killed?” (The Guardian, International)

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