France school attack
French rescue workers are seen at the site after a teacher was killed and several people injured in a knife attack at the Lycee Gambetta-Carnot high school in Arras, northern France, October 13, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Arras: A teacher was killed in a knife attack in a school in the northern France city of Arras on Friday and the investigation was handed to the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office.

The regional Pas-de-Calais authority said the suspected assailant, who also wounded a second teacher and a school security guard in the attack, was arrested.

The suspect was a Russian-born Chechen and former student of the Lycee Gambetta high school where the attack happened, a police source said. He was on a watchlist of people known as a potential security risk in connection to radical Islamism, the police source added.

BFM TV reported he was about 20 years old.

“We’re all in a state of shock,” said philosophy teacher Martin Doussaut, who was chased down by the attacker but managed to escape unharmed after locking himself down in a room.

BFM TV also said the person killed was a French language teacher, while a sports teacher was stabbed and injured.

Pupils were confined to their classrooms, it added.

President Emmanuel Macron was heading to Arras, his office said. In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Macron urged the French to remain united and refrain from bringing the Israel-Hamas conflict home.

Nothing so far pointed to a link with events in Israel and the Gaza Strip, a second police source told Reuters.

The suspected assailant’s brother was also arrested.

La Voix du Nord newspaper said that pupils in all schools in Arras - a town in the desindustrialised, ethnically diverse northern corner of France - were being held in their classrooms for their own safety.

France has been targeted by series of Islamist attacks over the years, the worst being a simultaneous assault by gunmen and suicide bombers on entertainment venues and cafes in Paris in November 2015.

In 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded by a Chechen teenager who wanted to avenge his use of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) during a class on freedom of expression.