Murder of Samuel Paty

The murder of Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher, took place on 16 October 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. Paty was killed and beheaded in an act of Islamist terrorism.

Murder of Samuel Paty
Part of Islamic terrorism in Europe
LocationConflans-Sainte-Honorine, Yvelines, France
Date16 October 2020 (2020-10-16)
Attack type
VictimSamuel Paty
PerpetratorAbdullah Anzorov
MotiveJihadism, Islamic extremism

The perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Muslim Russian-born refugee of Chechen descent, killed and beheaded Paty with a knife. Anzorov was shot and killed by police minutes later. His motive for the murder was that Paty had, in a class on freedom of expression, shown his students a Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[1][2][3]

French President Emmanuel Macron said that the incident was "a typical Islamist terrorist attack", and that "our compatriot was killed for teaching children freedom of speech". The murder was one of several attacks in France in recent years, and it created debate in French society and politics.



Samuel Paty (French pronunciation: ​[samɥɛl pati]) was born in 1973.[4] He was a middle-school teacher of history, geography, and civics who taught at Collège Bois-d'Aulne, located in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, a suburb 30 kilometres (19 mi) north-west of central Paris, for five years.[5][6] He lived ten minutes away from the middle school, in the small town of Éragny, Val-d'Oise.[7] He was married, and the father of a five-year-old boy.[7][8][9]

Events leading up to the murder

One of the Charlie Hebdo drawings shown by Samuel Paty to his students.[10]

Paty taught a moral and civic education course in early October 2020 on freedom of expression, in accord with the French national curriculum.[11] During his class he showed some of his teenage students a caricature of Muhammad from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a class discussion about freedom of speech.[1][2][3] Before showing the caricature, Paty had invited Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished.[3] According to one student, he had previously shown these cartoons as part of the discussion every year since the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015.[12] For many Muslims, any depiction of Muhammad is blasphemous.[1]

According to some sources, Paty showed two cartoons to his students, one of which portrayed Muhammad naked[13] with his genitals exposed,[14] although accounts differ on precisely what was presented in the classroom.[15] Brahim Chnina,[16] a female student's father, accused Paty of disseminating pornography to students and filed a criminal complaint with the police.[17][18] Paty responded by filing a complaint of defamation.[17] Chnina claimed on YouTube and Facebook that Paty had displayed an image of Muhammad nude; he named Paty, and gave the school's address.[19][20] He encouraged other parents to join him in action and mobilise against the teacher, whom he described as a thug.[3][21][22]

The Grande Mosque de Pantin published a video on its Facebook page a week before the murder with threats towards Paty. Abdelhakim Sefrioui [fr], the imam of the mosque and a member of the Conseil des imams de France [fr] accompanied the parent in his protest against the teacher in front of the school for showing the caricatures and demanding to meet the school's principal.[23] Sefrioui called the teacher a "thug" in a video, while denouncing the administration of the college. He demanded the teacher's exclusion from high school with the rectorate. The term "thug" had been repeatedly used by the parent Brahim Chnani earlier. The videos were taken down in the hours after the murder.[24]

Chnina also filed a complaint with the school, and encouraged people to protest at the school.[25] A meeting was held between the head teacher, the teacher, and an official from the education authority.[3] Chnina additionally filed a legal complaint about Paty's lesson, leading the teacher to go to the local police station accompanied by the principal.[3] Paty told investigators he could not understand the complaint because Chnina's daughter was not in class on the day Paty showed the cartoon.[3]


The perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, was an 18-year-old Russian immigrant of Chechen ethnic descent, born in Moscow.[26][27] Chechnya is a Muslim-majority republic and federal subject of the Russian Federation.[28]

Anzorov had come to France with refugee status 12 years earlier as a six-year-old boy.[6][29] He lived in the Madeleine district of the Normandy town of Évreux, about 100 km (62 miles) from the murder scene, and had no apparent connection with the teacher or the school.[30][31]

The Anzorov family came from the village of Shalazhi in Chechnya. Abdoullakh's father Abuezid moved first to Moscow, and then to Paris. Anzorov's half-sister joined ISIS in Syria in 2014.[32][33] In March 2020, the family had received refugee status and 10-year residency cards in France.[5][3] Abdoullakh was not noticed by security agencies, though he had previously been in courts on minor misdemeanour charges.[34][25]

Before the attack, he was in communication with two unidentified jihadists in Syria, including a Russian-speaking one, located through their IP addresses at Idleb, the last jihadist bastion of the country, under the control of the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham organization.[35] He claimed responsibility for the attack just after it in an audio message in Russian in which he says he is ready to be a "Chahid" (a martyr) and that he had "avenged the prophet" of Samuel Paty who "showed him in an insulting manner". In a video broadcast on Instagram, among others, he refers to the Islamic State.[36]

Murder and beheading

A week and a half after Paty's freedom-of-speech class, on 16 October 2020, Anzorov waited outside Paty's school's gates, and asked a number of students to point out the teacher. He then followed Paty as he left the school.[37][38] Using a knife measuring at 30 centimetres (12 in), Anzorov killed Paty and beheaded him in a street near the school where Paty taught, at approximately 5:00 pm.[38][3][39] In addition to decapitating Paty, Anzorov inflicted a number of wounds to his head, abdomen, and upper limbs.[3][40] Witnesses told police they heard the killer shout "Allahu Akbar" during the attack.[5][41]

Immediate aftermath

Minutes after the murder, the pseudonym @Tchetchene_270, identified by anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard as belonging to Abdullakh Anzorov, posted on Twitter an image of Paty's severed head. The photo was posted with the message: "In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful, ... to Macron, leader of the infidels, I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad, calm his fellow human beings before a harsh punishment is inflicted on you."[3][15][42][43]

Minutes later, Anzorov was confronted by police about 600 metres (660 yards) from the scene in Éragny, near Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, and the police tried to arrest him.[42][5][39] Anzorov shot at the police with an air rifle and tried to stab them with a knife.[44] The police in response shot him nine times, killing him.[3][44] On Anzorov's phone they found a text claiming responsibility, and a photograph of Paty's body.[5][42]

Investigations and arrests

Sixteen people[45] were later taken into custody for investigation.[46][6][47] They included Anzorov's grandparents, parents, and 17-year-old brother.[47][6][48][49] Also arrested were Abdelhakim Sefrioui [fr], an Islamist militant known to French anti-terrorism police,[44][50] Brahim Chnina, the father of a girl in Paty's class,[51][52] who is suspected of issuing a fatwa against Paty, and four students[45] who are suspected of taking money from the killer in exchange for identifying the teacher.[53]


French reactions

A farewell ceremony was scheduled to be held on 21 October in consultation with Paty's family.[54]

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the school where Paty had worked, and said that the incident was "a typical Islamist terrorist attack".[55][56][2] He also said: "our compatriot was killed for teaching children freedom of speech".[57]

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the killing an "attack on the French nation as a whole".[58] Jean-Rémi Girard, president of the secondary school teaching union, said teachers were "devastated" but would not be cowed.[59]

France's anti-terrorist prosecutor said the teacher had been "assassinated for teaching," and the attack was an assault on the principle of freedom of expression.[3]

Charlie Hebdo issued a statement expressing its "horror and revolt" and gave their support for the family and friends of Paty.[60] Many Muslims and religious leaders in France condemned the act.[61]

French police announced that there were more than 80 messages on social media from French people supporting the attacker.[62]

Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin ordered that the Grande Mosque de Pantin was to be closed for six months.[24] The mosque, which has about 1,500 worshippers situated just north of Paris, was ordered closed for having published videos inciting against Samuel Paty. It's imam, Abdelhakim Sefrioui, is under investigation and remains under arrest. The mosque removed the posts after the murder and expressed "regret" over publishing the videos, and published instead an announcement condemning the teacher's killing.[citation needed]

Two days after the murder, a defence council ordered the deportation of 231 foreign citizens which were known to security services in the Fiche S register. Of those, 180 were in prison and the rest were to be arrested.[63]

On October 23, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) sent the Imams of France a text that they could use as inspiration for their Friday prayers in response to the attack. In it, CFCM noted that "The horrible assassination ... reminds us of the scourges that sadly mark our reality: that of the irruption in our country of radicalism, violence and terrorism claiming to be Islam, claiming victims of all ages, all conditions and all convictions." "No, we Muslims are not persecuted in France," the authors continued. "We are sometimes targets of anti-Muslim acts,", but "others are also victims of hostile acts. In the face of these provocations, we must remain decent, serene and clear-sighted."[64]

France's interior minister Gérald Darmanin demanded dissolution of two Islamic NGOs CCIF [Collective against Islamophobia in France] and Baraka City, which he described as "enemies" of the state. Both the NGOs have been accused of taking part in a social media campaign against the teacher, launched by the father of one of his pupils.[65]

Foreign reactions

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations high representative Miguel Moratinos condemned the beheading.[66] The Egyptian Foreign Ministry extended its condolences to the family of Paty and expressed condemnation of the murder.[67] Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, said "acts of violence and terrorism were crimes in all religions".[68] The Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry expressed its solidarity with the French people.[68][further explanation needed] The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned the terrorist act and noted "the necessity of respecting religious beliefs and avoiding targeting them or insulting religious symbols".[69]

Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic, condemned the attack stating "We condemn this act of terror and offer condolences to the family of the victim", and also cautioned against offending or insulting Muslims.[70]

Russian mixed martial artists Zelim Imadaev, who is from Chechnya, was officially cut by the Ultimate Fighting Championship after posting on Instagram that Anzorov was a "hero of Islam". The UFC later claimed that Imadaev had already been released from the promotion.[71]

Rallies and public protests

The hashtags #Je Suis Prof and #Je Suis Enseignant, both meaning "I am a teacher", were launched in support of the victim and in support of freedom of expression.[72] This was reminiscent of the campaign and hashtag #JeSuisCharlie launched after Charlie Hebdo journalists, and 12 people total, were murdered in an Islamist attack because the magazine had published cartoons depicting Muhammad.[73]

Rallies in protest against the murder, and criticising the government's ineffective response to radical Islam, took place in Place de la République in Paris, and in other cities across France.[74][75] In total, around 3.7 million demonstrators rallied across France in solidarity with Paty.[76] The demonstrators held various placards with statements such as "Je suis Samuel" and "Schools in mourning" written on them.[77] The demonstrators also chanted "Freedom of expression, freedom to teach", or sang "La Marseillaise," the French national anthem.[77]

Politicians, academics, and envoys joined the demonstrations across France.[78] In Lyon around 12,000 joined the demonstrations, in Toulouse approximately 5,000 turned out, and hundreds more assembled in Nice.[78]

In neighbouring Germany, commemorations were held at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.[79][80]

On 21 October, a national memorial event was held at Parisian Sorbonne University in the honor of Paty.[81] Charlie Hebdo caricatures were displayed on regional authority buldings (French: Hôtels de région) in Toulouse and Montpellier.[82]

Tribute to Paty, in front of the town hall in Seine-Saint-Denis
Gathering at the Place de la République, in Belfort, paying tribute to Paty
French Muslims in attendance at tribute for Paty, in Place de la République
Gathering in homage to Samuel Paty, at Place de la République in Paris.

See also


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External links

External video
  "Thousands gather in Paris in memory of murdered teacher Samuel Paty – video report", The Guardian, 18 October 2020