Arras, France, October 13 (Reuters) – A 20-year-old knifeman stabbed a teacher to death in an attack on a school in the northern French city of Arras on Friday, which President Macron condemned as ” Brutal Islamic Terrorism”.
Macron said after visiting the school that two other people were seriously injured and were fighting for their lives.
“The teacher who was killed intervened and undoubtedly saved many lives himself,” Macron said after paying tribute to the dead teacher, whose body still lay under the quilt, surrounded by a pool of blood.
He said schools would reopen on Saturday, adding: “Our choice is not to give in to terror and not to let anything divide us.”
In a national address a day earlier, Macron urged France to remain united and not bring the conflict between Israel and Hamas home.
He had no direct contact with Aras but said: “Terrorism has once again struck a school, and in a context that we all know.”
Police sources said the arrested suspect is a former student of Lycee Gambetta High School where the attack occurred. A brother of the attacker was also detained nearby.
The investigation has been handed over to the Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office.
Police were unable to confirm local media reports that Friday’s attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar”.
But police sources said the attacker was on a national watch list and considered a potential security risk. “Fiche S” contains thousands of names, but only a small number are actively monitored.
Police sources said he was a Russian-born Chechen, but some French media said he was a Russian-born Ingush.
A security source said an older brother of the attacker was serving time in prison for having links to Islamist militant networks and glorifying acts of terror.
France has been the target of a series of Islamist attacks over the years, the most serious of which was a simultaneous attack on Paris entertainment venues and cafes by gunmen and suicide bombers in November 2015.
In 2020, teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by a Chechen teenager who wanted revenge for the use of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad in a free speech lesson.
“A school has once again been brutally attacked by Islamic terrorism,” Macron said.
A video obtained by Reuters shows three people, one holding a chair, trying to stop the attacker in a school parking lot but being shot by him. “He had a knife, he had a knife,” said one person who witnessed the scene.
“We are all in shock,” said philosophy teacher Martin Doussau. He was chased by his attackers but managed to escape after locking himself in a room.
Duchao said he witnessed the attacker chasing the school cook in the courtyard during a break between classes before the attacker walked towards him.
“As I was leaving, I found one of our colleagues who had been stabbed in the carotid artery and died in front of the school,” he told Reuters.
A security alarm was later triggered at another school in Arras, a school staff member told Reuters. According to French media reports, a third man was arrested in the incident when he tried to enter the school with a suspicious backpack.
Education Minister Gabriel Attal said security measures will be stepped up in schools across France.
Macron said another attack on Friday in the Paris region had been prevented.
Witnesses said the attackers did not appear to want to reconcile.
“He was looking for a history teacher,” Mr. Dussault said. “It makes me feel like this has nothing to do with personal issues and settling a personal grudge with the teacher.”
Students were confined to classrooms for several hours.
Student Lewis, 15, said the students initially thought it was a drill but had to hide after the alarm went off.
“I’m shocked that this happened here…it shows that this can happen anywhere,” he told Reuters.
Arras is a city in France’s deindustrialized, ethnically diverse northern corner, where the far right has strong support.
Reporting by Pascal Rossignol and Ardee Napolitano in Arras, Michel Rose, Layli Foroudi, Charlotte Van Campenhout, Tassilo Hummel, Benoit van Overstraeten, Blandine Henault in Paris; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Lough, Deborah Kyvrikosaios and Jonathan Oatis
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