French police have raided the homes of suspected Islamic radicals and are interviewing nearly 80 people following the decapitation of a schoolteacher, the BBC reported Monday.
Authorities believe many of the people being questioned posted messages supportive of the 18-year-old Chechen refugee who decapitated Samuel Paty in what President Emmanuel Macron has called an “Islamist attack,” the BBC reported. Abdoullakh Aboutezidovitch, the suspect in the attack, was shot and killed by police Friday.
Paty, who taught civics, was reportedly targeted after showing students the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, published by the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine in 2015, during a lesson on freedom of speech. (RELATED: New Details Emerge On Teacher Decapitated For Showing Picture Of Muhammed)
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Monday that not all individuals targeted in the operations were necessarily linked to the investigations surrounding Paty’s death. He added that the operation sent a message that there was “no respite for enemies of the republic” and that the operation were expected to continue all week, the BBC reported.
The government is also investigating 51 French Muslim organizations. If the organizations are found to promote hatred, they will be shut down. Among the groups being probed is the Collective Against Islamophobia, which the French government believes propagates a permanent message of defiance to the French state, according to the BBC.
The attack came as Macron’s government continues to work on a bill to combat “radical Islamism.” France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to 5 million members, and Islam is the country’s second largest religion.
In early October, Macron announced a law that would combat “radical Islamism” in the country by cracking down on foreign financing of mosques and private religious schools. Macron said Paty’s killing bore all the hallmarks of an “Islamist terrorist attack” and the teacher had been murdered because he “taught freedom of expression,” the BBC reported. He reportedly added that Islamism would not be allowed to sleep quietly in France.
The suspect had no apparent connection with the teacher or the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said that the suspect went to Paty’s school and asked students to point out the teacher, then followed Paty as he walked home from work, the BBC reported. The attacker used a large kitchen knife to decapitate Paty.
Following the attack, crowds gathered throughout France to pay tribute to Paty, carrying signs that read “I am Samuel” and “I am a teacher,” the BBC reported. The rallies took place in several cities including Paris, where thousands convened in Place de la République on Sunday and observed a moment of silence, with the French national anthem playing at times, Huffington Post France reported.