France on Monday honoured the teacher beheaded in front of his school by a suspected Islamist radical in a murder that shocked the country, as millions of students returned to classes after the autumn break.
Schoolchildren across France were to observe a minute of silence at 11:00 am (1000 GMT) to remember Samuel Paty, who was killed in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, outside Paris, on October 16 just as the holiday began.
Paty had shown his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed for a lesson on freedom of expression, spurring an online campaign targeting him. His killing further set France on edge as President Emmanuel Macron spearheads a campaign against Islamist radicalism.
On Thursday morning, three people were knifed to death in a church in the southern city of Nice in another strike the government described as an act of “Islamist” terror.
“I know your emotion after the terrorist attacks, including one in front of a school against a teacher,” Macron said in a message to pupils on his Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook social media channels.
“Today, in class, you will pay homage to Samuel Paty. We will all think of him, you and your teachers,” he said, adding: “The plan of terrorism is to manufacture hatred.”
Prosecutors say Paty was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen man, Abdullakh Anzorov, who was killed by police.
Prime Minister Jean Castex was also due to travel to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine to pay his respects to Paty alongside Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.
Schools in France reopen with the country at maximum terror alert and parents told not to linger at school gates after dropping off their children.
Macron has vowed to defend the right to freedom of speech and that France will never renounce caricatures, after the furore created in the Muslim word by the republication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in September by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The stabbing rampage in Nice is suspected to have been carried out by Brahim Issaoui, a 21-year-old who arrived in Europe from Tunisia in September. He remains in serious condition in hospital after police shot him.
Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoons to mark the start of the trial of suspected accomplices in the 2015 massacre of its staff by Islamist gunmen. The trial was Sunday delayed for at least a week after three defendants tested positive for coronavirus.