Thousands rally across France in tribute to teacher beheaded in terror attack

18 October 2020, 15:03 | Updated: 19 October 2020, 07:09

People gather on Republique square during the demonstration
People gather on Republique square during the demonstration. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Demonstrations have taken place around France in support of freedom of speech and to pay tribute to a history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed with his class.

Samuel Paty was decapitated on Friday by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, who was then shot dead by police.

Political leaders, associations and unions will rally on Sunday afternoon in Paris and other major cities including Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.

Read more: Maajid Nawaz condemns extremists behind Paris beheading

The gatherings come as French authorities said they have detained an 11th person following the horrific attack in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of Paris.

French anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive has been opened.

Flowers were laid at the school where Samuel Paty was killed
Flowers were laid at the school where Samuel Paty was killed. Picture: PA

At least four of those detained are family members of the attacker, who had been granted a 10-year residency in France as a refugee in March, was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, which fires plastic pellets.

His half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014, Mr Ricard said. He did not give her name, and it is not clear where she is now.

The prosecutor said a text claiming responsibility and a photograph of the victim were found on the suspect's phone.

He also confirmed that a Twitter account under the name Abdoulakh A belonged to the suspect. It posted a photo of the decapitated head minutes after the attack along with the message "I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down".

The attack has upset moderate French Muslims, with a group of imams in the Lyon region holding a special meeting on Sunday to discuss what the group called "the appalling assassination of our compatriot by a terrorist who in the name of an uncertain faith committed the irreparable".

It has also provoked global condemnation.

US President Donald Trump referred to the killing on Saturday night during a political rally in Janesville, Wisconsin.

"On behalf of the United States, I'd like to extend my really sincere condolences to a friend of mine, President (Emmanuel) Macron of France, where they just yesterday had a vicious, vicious Islamic terrorist attack - beheading an innocent teacher near Paris," he said. "France is having a hard time and Macron's a great guy."