In a chilling incident that has sent shockwaves through France, a man of Chechen origin, who had been under surveillance by the country’s security services due to suspected radicalization, fatally stabbed a teacher at his former high school, critically wounding two others in northern France on Friday. The attack is now under investigation as a potential act of terrorism, further heightening global tensions already strained by the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Echoes of Past Tragedy: This horrifying attack bears grim echoes of another tragedy that unfolded almost three years ago when a radicalized Chechen beheaded teacher Samuel Paty near a school in the Paris area. The suspect in this recent case had been under surveillance since the summer, suspected of Islamic radicalization, according to French intelligence services. He was apprehended for questioning on Thursday based on recent phone call monitoring, but investigators found no immediate signs of an impending attack, as confirmed by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
Darmanin explained that despite the urgency, security forces did not uncover any imminent threats, weapons, or indications of an attack, stating, “There was a race against the clock. But there was no threat, no weapon, no indication. We did our job seriously.” French intelligence has suggested a possible connection between the Middle East conflict and the attacker’s decision to commit the violent act.
Suspected Attacker Remains Silent: The suspected assailant, identified as Mohamed M., reportedly refuses to cooperate with investigators. Several other individuals are also in custody, including the suspect’s younger brother, held for questioning, according to national counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard.
President Macron Decries Terrorism: President Emmanuel Macron expressed the nation’s sorrow, saying, “France has been hit once again by the barbarity of Islamist terrorism.” Speaking at the site of the attack in Arras, located 115 miles north of Paris, Macron identified the deceased teacher as Dominique Bernard, a French language educator at the Gambetta-Carnot school, which serves students aged 11-18. Macron praised Bernard’s heroic actions, mentioning that he “stepped in and probably saved many lives.” However, two of the wounded, another teacher, and a security guard, are in critical condition.
The third victim, a school cleaner, was also wounded in the attack. During the assault, the alleged attacker repeatedly shouted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, according to the prosecutor.
Global Tensions and Security Measures: Friday’s attack unfolded amid the backdrop of heightened tensions worldwide due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians on both sides. In response to this, Interior Minister Darmanin ordered local authorities to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations, citing a rise in antisemitic acts.
France is home to the world’s third-largest Jewish population, following Israel and the United States, and boasts the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. A moment of silence was observed at the opening of a France-Netherlands soccer match to honor the victims of the Israel-Hamas conflict and the slain teacher.
President Macron announced that the school in Arras would reopen as soon as Saturday morning, and he urged the people of France to “stay united.” He emphasized the importance of not yielding to terror and the continued pursuit of knowledge through education.