French prosecutor says students helped killer find teacher

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French anti-terrorist state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard holds a press conference Wednesday Oct.21, 2020 in Paris. The French government issued an order to dissolve a domestic militant Islamic group after the beheading last week near Paris of Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. A terror investigation is under way into the killing by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, who was later shot dead by police. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS (AP) — The 18-year-old suspected killer of a French teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class paid students to help him identify the victim, France’s terrorism prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old are among seven people who appeared before an investigating magistrate on accusations of “complicity in murder in relation with a terrorist undertaking” and “criminal conspiracy.”

The suspect in Friday’s slaying of teacher Samuel Paty, who was attacked and beheaded near Paris, offered students at the school where Paty taught 300-350 euros ($355-$415) to help him pick out the educator, Richard said during a news conference.

“The investigation has established that the perpetrator knew the name of the teacher, the name of the school and its address, yet he did not have the means to identify him,” the prosecutor said. “That identification has only been possible with the help of students from the same school.”

“That’s why the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office has decided to prosecute two under-18 minors whose implication in the identification of the victim for the killer has appeared to be conclusive,” he said.

A terror investigation is under way into Paty’s killing. Authorities have identified the killer as Abdoullakh Anzorov., an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee who was later shot dead by police.

The surviving suspects also include a student’s father who posted videos on social media that called for mobilization against the teacher and an Islamist activist who helped the man disseminate the virulent messages, which named Paty and gave the school’s address, Ricard said.

Two more men are accused of having helped the attacker by accompanying him when he bought the weapons, including a knife and an airsoft gun, that were found near the 18-year-old’s body, according to the prosecutor.

Another suspect had close contacts with the attacker and endorsed radical Islamism, Ricard said.

On Wednesday morning, the French government issued an order to dissolve a domestic militant Islamic group, the Collective Cheikh Yassine. Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said it was “implicated, linked to Friday’s attack” and it was used to promote anti-republican hate speech. Other groups will be dissolved “in the coming weeks” for similar reasons, Attal said.

Named after a slain leader of the Palestinian Hamas, Collective Cheikh Yassine was founded in the early 2000s by the Islamist activist who is among the seven people accused of being accomplices to the attacker.

Attal also confirmed that the government ordered a mosque in the northeast Paris suburb of Pantin to close for six months.

The Pantin mosque is being punished for relaying the angry father’s message on social media.

Authorities say it has long had an imam following the Salafist path, a rigorous interpretation of the Muslim holy book.

A national memorial event is scheduled to be held Wednesday evening in the courtyard of the Sorbonne university.

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