Killer of French teacher had 'contact' with Syrian jihadist

Anti-terror investigators in France establish that man who beheaded teacher last week was in contact with a jihadist in Syria.

Ben Ariel ,

Stabbing attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine
Stabbing attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine
Reuters

The investigation into the murder of a French teacher for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer was in contact with a Russian-speaking jihadist, AFP reports.

Seven people have been charged with being complicit in a "terrorist murder" after 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov beheaded Samuel Paty on the outskirts of Paris last Friday, including two teenagers who helped the killer identify his victim.

Anti-terror investigators have now established that Anzorov, who moved to France with his family from the Russian republic of Chechnya as a child, had been in contact with a jihadist in Syria, a source close to the case told AFP.

The identity of the Russian-speaking jihadist is not yet known, the source added.

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov's suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a jihadist holdout in northwestern Syria.

Idlib is controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, formerly Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, but has also become the refuge for several jihadist splinter groups.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported the presence of thousands of foreign nationals, including French, British and Chechen fighters in the region.

In an audio message in Russian immediately after the killing, translated by AFP, Anzorov said that he had "avenged the Prophet" whom the teacher had shown "in an insulting way".

In the recording, which contains several references to the Koran as well as to the Islamic State (ISIS) group, he also said: "Brothers, pray that Allah accepts me as a martyr".

Two teenagers from Paty's school who pointed him out to his killer in return for 300-350 euros ($356-$414) were charged late Wednesday over the killing, according to AFP.

The parent of one of Paty's students, who started the social media campaign against the teacher, was also charged, as was a known Islamist radical who helped the father stir up outrage against Paty.

The other three facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of who allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.

Two of them also face charges of being complicit in a terrorist murder while the third was charged with a lesser offence, the anti-terrorist prosecutor's office said.

In the wake of the brutal murder, the French government has begun a crackdown on Islamist groups in the country.

On Wednesday, the French government issued an order to dissolve the domestic pro-Hamas Collective Cheikh Yassine.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the group was formally banned because it was “implicated, linked to Friday’s attack” and it was used to promote anti-republican hate speech.

Other groups will be dissolved “in the coming weeks” for similar reasons, Attal said.

Named after the founder of Hamas, Collective Cheikh Yassine was founded in the early 2000s by a man who is among the individuals detained for questioning in the teacher’s killing.

In recent years, France has been hit by a number of attacks claimed by ISIS, the biggest one being the attack in November of 2015 in which 129 people were murdered.

The country has been under a heightened alert in recent years in the wake of the attacks.

Just last month, a 25-year-old man wounded two people in a meat cleaver attack in Paris. He was subsequently charged with "attempted murder with relation to a terrorist enterprise."



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