A history teacher was stabbed and “decapitated” in front of his school in a suspected terror attack near Paris, according to police.
The victim had shown caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad to students during a lesson earlier this month, officials said.
France's anti-terrorism prosecutor is investigating the incident, which took place at around 5pm on Friday in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, around 25km north west of the capital.
The attacker was shot dead minutes later by police about 600 metres away from the scene of the stabbing, close to the town of Eragny. He was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun, police said.
French president Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” as he visited the school and met with staff.
"One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught pupils about freedom of expression," he said, adding: “They won't win... We will act. Firmly, And quickly. You can count on my determination… We must stand all together as citizens.”
Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer had earlier said the “despicable assassination” was an attack on the French nation.
“I think tonight of him, of his family,” he tweeted. “Our unity and steadfastness are the only answers to the monstrosity of Islamist terrorism.”
Interior minister Gerard Darmanin said he had set up a “crisis centre” to deal with the attack.
According to police officials, the history teacher had opened a discussion about the Muhammad cartoons in class and a parent of one of the pupils had filed a complaint.
Another police source told the Reuters news agency that witnesses heard the attacker shout Allah Akbar, or God is Great. BFM TV reported that the suspect was aged 18 and was born in Moscow.
It was also reported that the attacker claimed responsibility by tweeting a graphic photograph the words: "To Macron, the leader of the infidels, I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad". The account has been suspended.
Last month two people were stabbed near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, the scene of a deadly terror attack by Islamist militants in 2015.
The suspect in the double stabbing told police that he acted out of anger after the magazine reprinted caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Fourteen people suspected of involvement in the 2015 terror attack on Charlie Hebdo are currently on trial in Paris.
On Friday night the magazine tweeted its “deepest support” to the teacher’s family and colleagues and added: “Charlie Hebdo expresses its sense of horror and revolt after a teacher in the line of duty was murdered by a religious fanatic."
Additional reporting by agencies
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