French police conduct raids in crackdown after teacher beheading


FILE PHOTO: A person holds a "Je suis Samuel" placard during a tribute to Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded on the streets of the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine, at the Place de la Republique, in Lille, France, October 18, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

PARIS (Reuters) - French police on Monday raided Islamic associations and foreigners suspected of extremist religious beliefs, police sources said, three days after a suspected Islamist beheaded a school teacher.

History teacher Samuel Paty, 47, was murdered on Friday in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. Police shot the attacker dead.

The teenage assassin sought to avenge his victim's use of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression to 13-year-olds. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.

Public figures called the killing an attack on the Republic and on French values.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there were some 80 investigations being conducted into online hate and that he was looking into whether to disband about 50 associations within the Muslim community.

"Police operations have taken place and more will follow, concerning tens of individuals," the minister told Europe 1.

A police source on Sunday said France was preparing to deport 213 foreigners who were on a government watchlist and suspected of holding extreme religious beliefs, among whom about 150 are serving jail sentences.

The deportations were already being worked on before Friday's attack, a security source said.

Police detained 10 people in connection with the attack in the 24 hours that followed Paty's killing. Among them, prosecutors said, were the father of a pupil at Paty's school and another person on the radar of intelligence services, who they said had used social media to campaign against the teacher.

A judicial source told Reuters the man known to the intelligence agencies was Moroccan-born Abdelhakim Sefriuoi. Sefriuoi has for years used social media to fight against what he calls "Islamaphobia" and to put pressure on the government over its treatment of Muslims.

In 2011, he agitated against a high school in Saint-Ouen, a working-class city with a large Muslim community near Paris, because it wanted to ban clothing used by Muslim girls to circumvent a ban on veils.

Sefriuoi has been on the French intelligence services watchlist for more than 15 years, security sources told Reuters.

Darmanin said the two men's calls for action against Paty served as a Fatwa against him.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Jean-Stephane Brosse and Tangi Salaün; Editing by Jon Boyle, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean)

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