15 people have been arrested
French police on Monday launched a series of raids targeting Islamist networks three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin vowed there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic”, after tens of thousands took part in rallies countrywide on Sunday to honour history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.
Fifteen people were in custody on Monday, according to a judicial source, including four pupils who may have helped the killer identify the teacher in return for payment.
Those detained also included four members of the killer’s family, as well as a known Islamist radical and the father of one of Paty’s pupils who had launched an online campaign against the teacher.
Darmanin accused the two men of having issued a “fatwa” against Paty.
Sources in the interior ministry said there had been a total of 40 raids across France on Monday, mostly around Paris, and 20 per day were planned going forward.
“We want to harass and destabilise this movement in a very determined way,” one ministry source said.
Darmanin said the government would also tighten its grip on NGOs with suspected links to Islamist networks.
“Fear is about to change sides,” President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of key ministers Sunday to discuss a response to the attack.
On Monday, he met members of Paty’s family as part of preparations for a ceremony in the teacher’s honour at the Sorbonne university Wednesday.
Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Paris.
A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.
The killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons of the prophet.
Paty had shown his civics class one of the controversial cartoons, depicting a crouching prophet with a star on his buttocks.
According to his school, Paty had given Muslim children the option to leave the classroom, saying he did not want their feelings hurt.
The lesson sparked a furore nonetheless and Paty and his school received threats.
Anzorov’s family arrived in France from the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya more than a decade ago.
Locals in the Normandy town of Evreux where he lived described him as a loner who had become increasingly religious in recent years.