France has been placed under the highest security alert level following a brutal knife attack on a school in Pas de Calais, which has left one dead and three others injured.
On Friday 13th October, a man identified in the media as Mohammed Moguchkov entered the premises of his former high school in Arras. Reportedly armed with a concealed knife, he attacked and fatally stabbed 57-year-old teacher Dominique Bernard. A security guard, a second teacher and a cleaner were also injured, according to AFP.
Moguchkov is believed to be in his 20s. According to press reports, he moved to France with his family from his native Chechnya as a young boy. He is understood to be Muslim and had reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar!”, an Arabic phrase appropriated by Islamist terrorists, during the attack.
Suspect and family known to security services
AFP reports that the suspect was already known to the French security services. A police source cited by France 24 claims that Moguchkov had been identified as a potential threat in early October and was under electronic and physical surveillance by the GDSI. Other media reports have alleged he was stopped by police the day before the attack, but there had been no grounds on which to detain and hold him.
According to some media reports, the suspect’s family was served with an expulsion order in 2014 and taken to an airport for a flight heading to Moscow. Unspecified humanitarian organisations reportedly intervened and the family was ultimately allowed to remain.
10 people are believed to have been arrested in connection with the attack in Arras, including the younger brother of the main suspect.
Jean-François Ricard, France’s anti-terrorist prosecutor, revealed at a press conference following the incident that Moguchkov’s elder brother is currently in prison for two terrorism-linked charges.
A statement released by the prosecutor’s office following Friday’s attack reads, “The national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation for the following: murder in relation to a terrorist initiative; attempted murder in relation to a terrorist initiative; association of terrorist wrongdoer in preparation for crimes against people.”
“Barbarity of Islamist terrorism”
Speaking to the media, French President Emmanuel Macron has called the attack an example of the “barbarity of Islamist terrorism”. He also revealed that another attempted attack in a separate region of France had recently been prevented by security forces.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has suggested that there is “probably a link between what’s happening in the Middle East and this incident [in Arras].”
Nationwide, France has since increased its security alert to the highest level. 7,000 soldiers from the specialist Operation Sentinelle have also been deployed to areas of the country deemed to be sensitive to potential terrorist attacks.
The victim: Dominique Bernard
Exactly three years on from a similar attack on Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher who was beheaded by a Chechen refugee near Paris, schools and education establishments across France paid tribute to the brave victim of this most recent killing on Monday 16th October.
“The teacher who was killed intervened first. He undoubtedly saved many lives,” said Macron of Bernard’s actions. “His seriously injured colleague and the staff who were also seriously injured showed the same courage. But so did the headteacher and many others in that moment.”
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Photo source: Xerty, Unsplash