9 people arrested after French teacher beheaded in street

PARIS — French police were questioning nine people Saturday after a schoolteacher was beheaded in the middle of a street in broad daylight.

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Police fatally shot the man, an 18-year-old of Chechen descent, who decapitated Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old history teacher, on Friday minutes after the attack. The man, who has not been identified, was armed with a knife and an airsoft pellet gun. Police opened fire when he did not obey orders to put down his weapons.

The nine suspects include grandparents, parents and the 17-year-old brother of the attacker. Other suspects include two parents of students at the school where Paty taught, College du Bois d’Aulne, Reuters reported.

Paty had shown students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were published five years ago in the magazine Charlie Hebdo during a lesson on free speech earlier this month, sparking controversy by Muslim extremists. Ultra-devout followers feel depictions of Muhammad are blasphemous.

Paty had received death threats after starting the discussion about 10 days ago, investigators said. A student’s parent had also filed a complaint against the teacher.

“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught... the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe,” Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron said.

The weekly magazine was the scene of a deadly attack in 2015. It republished the caricatures earlier this month as a trial linked to that attack started.

Muslim leaders in France decried the murder.

“Every day that passes without incident we give thanks,” Tareq Oubrou, imam of a Bordeaux mosque, told French Inter radio. “We are between hammer and anvil. It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.