The French prime minister has raised the country’s counter-terrorism alert to its highest state following a fatal stabbing of a teacher and the serious injury of two others. According to witnesses, the assailant shouted “Allahu Akbar” (meaning “God is greatest”) during the attack at a school in Arras, northern France. The attacker is now in custody. The decision to activate the “attack emergency” level has been taken in previous counter-terrorism cases and may result in increased security measures and public warnings.
The incident took place at Gambetta high school in the northern city around 11:00 local time (09:00 GMT), at a time when tensions were already high within France’s sizable Muslim and Jewish communities due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin stated that there was “no doubt” a connection between the Arras attack and the Israel-Hamas conflict. The assailant, identified as 20-year-old Russian national Mohamed Mogouchkov of Chechen origin, was already known to security services for his association with Islamist extremism, as confirmed by the police. Reports suggest that his extremist language had triggered concerns among teachers during his time as a student at the school. Several members of the assailant’s family, including his 17-year-old brother, mother, sister, and uncle, have also been arrested by the police.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne made the decision to raise the alert level after a security meeting with President Emmanuel Macron. Earlier, Macron visited the school and condemned the “barbarity of Islamist terrorism.” He called on the French people to remain united in the face of the attack and not succumb to fear or division. The deceased victim was a French language teacher who was stabbed in the throat and chest. Another teacher and a security guard sustained serious injuries and are currently receiving treatment in the hospital. The security guard is in critical condition with multiple knife wounds. A cleaner also suffered minor injuries, while no children were harmed during the attack. Macron praised the deceased teacher for his bravery, stating that he had saved many lives by stepping forward to protect others.
Martin Dousseau, a teacher who witnessed the attack, described a moment of panic during the break when the students found themselves facing the armed assailant. Dousseau revealed that the assailant initially targeted the canteen staff and then turned towards him, asking if he was a history and geography teacher. “We barricaded ourselves, and then the police arrived and apprehended him,” Dousseau added. The incident occurred nearly three years after the murder and beheading of another teacher, Samuel Paty, outside Paris. The perpetrator of that attack, 18-year-old Russian Muslim refugee Abdullakh Anzorov, was subsequently shot dead by the police. France has experienced a series of Islamist attacks in recent years, with the deadliest occurring in November 2015 when gunmen and suicide bombers targeted entertainment venues and cafes in Paris, resulting in 130 fatalities. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for that attack.
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