Macron says beheaded teacher was victim of stupidity, hate

A ceremonial military guard carried the teacher’s coffin into the cobblestone courtyard of the Sorbonne. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Macron says beheaded teacher was victim of stupidity, hate

  • Macron: “Samuel Paty ... became the face of the Republic”
  • Authorities have identified the killer as Abdoullakh Anzorov

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron promised Wednesday that France will not renounce freedoms taught by a schoolteacher beheaded by a radical Islamist last week after showing caricatures of the prophet of Islam to his class.
At a national memorial at the Sorbonne University in central Paris, Macron praised history teacher Samuel Paty as the “face of the Republic” who “believed in knowledge.”
Paty, 47, was murdered on Friday by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin who had become radicalized. He was in turn shot dead by police.
“Samuel Paty ... became the face of the Republic, of our will to shatter terrorists, to (do away with) Islamists, to live like a community of free citizens in our country,” Macron said. “We will continue.”
A ceremonial military guard carried the teacher’s coffin into the cobblestone courtyard of the Sorbonne where the memorial took place before his family, government members and select guests. A giant screen was installed outside.
The stirring ceremony, with readings that included a poem by Albert Camus to his own teacher, came hours after the prosecutor sketched out how the teenager came to kill Paty, with the suspected help of two young students at the school in a northwest Paris suburb.
Jean-Francois Ricard said a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old are among seven people taken before an investigating magistrate on accusations of “complicity in murder in relation with a terrorist undertaking” and “criminal conspiracy.”
The killer offered students at the school where Paty taught 300-350 euros ($355-$415) to help him pick out the educator, Ricard 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.”
He said the implication of the two young adolescents “appeared to be conclusive.”
Authorities have identified the killer as Abdoullakh Anzorov., a Moscow-born Chechen refugee.
Anzorov claimed responsibility in a text accompanied by a photograph of the victim found on his phone.
The other suspects 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, aged 18 and 19, are accused of accompanying the attacker when he bought the weapons, including a knife and an airsoft gun, the prosecutor said. One of them allegedly drove Anzorov, who lived in the Normandy town of Evreux about 90 kilometers (56 miles) of the school, to near the school about three hours before the killing.
Another 18-year-old suspect had close contacts with the attacker and endorsed radical Islamism, Ricard said.
Al three of them, who were friends of Anzorov, allegedly said that “he was ‘radicalizing’ for several months, marked by a change of behavior, physical appearance, isolation, an assiduous frequentation of the mosque and ambiguous remarks about Jihad and the Daesh group.”
“Samuel Paty was the victim of a conspiracy of stupidity, hate, lies ... hate of the other ... hate of what we profoundly are,” Macron said during his speech, which blended honors to the victim and the teaching profession with his government’s efforts to root out Islamist radicals.
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.


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

Updated 23 January 2021

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.