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French prosecutor says alleged attacker in school stabbing declared allegiance to Islamic State

Police found an audio recording in the suspect’s phone where he declared allegiance to the Islamic State and expressed ‘his hatred for France, for the French, for democracy and the education he benefitted from in our country’

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne during a tribute ceremony for slain French teachers Samuel Paty and Dominique Bernard at the Bois d'Aulne school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, outside Paris, on October 16, 2023.POOL (via REUTERS)

France’s anti-terror prosecutor said Tuesday that a suspected Islamic extremist declared allegiance to the Islamic State group before fatally stabbing a teacher in a school attack last week. The prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, said police found an audio recording in the suspect’s phone. In it, the alleged attacker declared allegiance to the Islamic State and expressed “his hatred for France, for the French, for democracy and the education he benefitted from in our country.”

The alleged attacker was a former pupil of the school in the northern town of Arras. A teacher was fatally stabbed in the neck and three other people were injured in the assault, which prompted France to raise its terror alert level and deploy extra security. The prosecutor spoke at a news briefing and took no questions.

Ricard said that shortly before the stabbing, the alleged attacker also recorded a 30-second video of himself in front of a war memorial. In that video, the suspect “repeatedly attacked, in his own words, the values of the French. He expressed some particularly threatening views,” the prosecutor said.

In the audio message, recorded in Arabic, the suspect also expressed support for Muslims in Iraq, Asia and the Palestinian territories but didn’t directly link the school attack to the outbreak of war between the Hamas militant group and Israel, the prosecutor said. Two of the alleged attacker’s family members, as well the suspect himself, now face formal terrorism-related charges, Ricard said.

They include the alleged attacker’s 16-year-old younger brother who is suspected of having provided “a certain amount of support” for the assault, of being aware of his older brother’s radicalization and of advising him how to handle knives, according to the prosecutor.

The other is a cousin who was allegedly aware that a crime was possibly being planned but apparently did nothing to stop it, he said. Police detained a total of 13 people for questioning in the investigation since last Friday but 10 of those have been cleared of any wrongdoing for now, the prosecutor said.

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