France has been put on its highest state of terror alert after an alleged ISIS supporter reportedly stabbed a teacher to death and seriously wounded two others in an act labelled ‘barbaric Islamist terrorism’ by President Emmanuel Macron.
Mohamed Mogouchkov, a Chechen refugee aged 20, is said to have murdered Dominique Bernard, a French literature teacher in his 40s at the Gambetta high school in Arras at 11am local time after being heard to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’, according by witnesses.
French authorities say that they have raised the counter-terror alert level in the country to ‘attack emergency’ – which can trigger extra security deployments and public warnings.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the Arras attack bore a link to events in the Middle East, where Israel is conducting a military offensive to root out Hamas fighters after their deadly rampage.
On Friday, Hamas leaders called on Muslims across the world to demonstrate on the ‘day of Jihad’.
This handout photo released by an anonymous source on October 13, 2023 shows the suspected perpetrator (C) of a knife attack being escorted by a policeman outside of the Gambetta high school in the town of Arras, northern France
A video shows a confrontation between two men in the school grounds
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at the Gambetta high school in Arras
A pupil is comforted by a relative as he leaves Gambetta high-school in Arras, where a teacher was killed and two others were severely wounded
French President Emmanuel Macron, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and officials arrive at the site
Police investigate following the stabbing at the school in Arras on Friday morning
Emergency services attend the scene of the fatal attack which took place around 11am local time (10am GMT) at the Gambetta high school in the city of Arras
Israeli embassy worker is attacked in Beijing
An Israeli embassy worker in Beijing was attacked on Friday, Israel’s foreign ministry said.
Video geolocated by AFP shows the man was stabbed with a knife on a street in the Chinese capital.
‘An Israeli employee of the Israeli embassy in Beijing was attacked today,’ a foreign ministry statement said, adding that the attack did not take place at the embassy compound.
‘The employee is being treated at hospital and is in stable condition,’ the statement said.
‘The motive for the assault is being looked into.’
A video posted on social media and geolocated by AFP to an area around a kilometre and a half (roughly 1 mile) from the embassy shows a man brandishing a knife repeatedly stabbing another man, with blood visible on the pavement.
The man with the blade can later be seen leaving the site, weapon in hand.
In another video of the same location, security staff are seen questioning people and making phone calls.
A man then rushes in on a bike to where the blood-soaked and conscious victim is sitting, shouting ‘ambulance!’ to onlookers.
The victim is seen being carried away by several others, likely for medical treatment, to a vehicle out of frame.
During the video, a policeman can be heard saying he is from Xinyuanli police station.
A person who answered the phone at that station told AFP they were ‘not clear’ about the details of the case.
An AFP journalist at the scene where the stabbing occurred said there were eight plainclothes police officers standing around.
There was no police tape cordoning off the area and no visible blood stains on the ground, which were seen in one video posted on social media.
Three shopkeepers at stores directly in front of the attack’s location said they did not see anything take place.
The attack comes after Hamas gunmen killed more than 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and took about 150 hostages in their surprise attack on Saturday.
Israel has retaliated by raining air and artillery strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip for six days, killing over 1,350 people.
A statement on the Israeli foreign ministry website warned that Hamas had called on ‘all of its supporters around the world to hold a ‘Day of Rage” on Friday to ‘attack Israelis and Jews’.
‘It is reasonable to assume that there will be protest events in various countries that are liable to turn violent,’ the statement said.
The Israeli embassy, located in a diplomatic neighbourhood of northeast Beijing, appeared to be operating normally on Friday afternoon, an AFP journalist saw.
Security personnel asked AFP not to film the site, where no additional policing was visible from the outside.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond for comment.
At least two other people were wounded, including a security agent who was stabbed multiple times and a teacher who is in a less serious condition, a source added. No pupil at the school was hurt.
The attack was the result of ‘barbaric Islamist terrorism,’ President Macron told reporters at the scene on Friday, but added that police had helped avoid another attempted attack elsewhere in France.
‘The teacher who was killed had come forward to protect others and had without doubt saved many lives,’ said Macron.
Both Mogouchkov and his brother, who was also taken into custody, were known to the authorities and were on the national security watchlist, police said.
Mogouchkov’s brother is said to have spent 18 months in prison for distributing ISIS propaganda online, and Mogouchkov was also a known ISIS sympathiser, sources said.
Sliman Hamzi, a police officer who was one of the first on the scene said Mogouchkov, a former pupil at the school, shouted: ‘Allahu Akbar’ – ‘God is great’ in Arabic.
Mr Hamzi said he was alerted by another officer who was passing in front of the high school and called in. He ‘was shouting: ‘Someone is attacking with a knife,” Mr Hamzi said.
‘Colleagues arrived quickly but unfortunately couldn’t save the victim,’ Mr Hamzi said.
Fabien Dufay, a PE teacher at the school said he had taught Mogouchkov in his final year ‘three years ago’.
He described him as a ‘reserved, calm student with whom I had completely normal conversations.’
The attacker ‘had two knives in his hands,’ says another teacher at the school, who asked not to be named.
‘He turned to me and said, ‘Are you a history teacher? Are you a history teacher?’,’ said the teacher, who then hid behind a glass door.
He added: ‘It was only when I left that I was able to see that the attack was much more serious than I thought. Someone was dead in front of the school.’
Clips of what appear to be the attack circulated by students on social media show how a man appears to lunge at victims in the courtyard.
One of the victims holds a chair between himself and the attacker to defend himself but is ultimately bundled to the ground and sustains several blows.
Students meanwhile barricaded themselves in classrooms and were told to remain inside.
The attack in Arras comes almost three years to the day after the murder of Paty, also by a Chechen extremist, which took place on October 16, 2020.
It also comes with tensions rising in France, which has large Jewish and Muslim communities, after last weekend’s attack by Hamas on Israel.
President Emmanuel Macron said in an address to the nation on Thursday that 582 religious and cultural facilities in France were receiving stepped-up police protection.
‘Those who confuse the Palestinian cause and the justification of terrorism commit a strong moral, political and strategic error,’ he said.
His office said he would head to the scene in Arras.
There has also been controversy over the French government’s ban on pro-Palestinian protests following the Hamas attack, with the left lamenting it was no longer possible to protest for peace but the right saying the measures did not go far enough.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday ordered that the demonstrations be prohibited nationwide as they ‘are likely to generate disturbances to public order,’ adding that organisers should face arrest.
This is the latest incidence of what appears to be a growing problem of knife violence in France.
In June this year, a knifeman stabbed four children at a lakeside park in the French Alps, assaulting at least one in a stroller repeatedly.
The attacker, a 31-year-old Christian Syrian refugee with permanent Swedish residency, mentioned his daughter, his wife and Jesus Christ during the attack in the lakeside town of Annecy.
The stabbing follows a series of bomb, gun and knife attacks carried out by Islamic State and al-Qaeda operatives in France, dating back to early 2015.
The deadliest single terrorist attack ever in the country came in November 2015 when 130 people were killed in Paris after suicide bombers pledging allegiance to ISIS targeted the Stade de France, cafes, restaurants and the Bataclan music venue, where 90 died.
French police officers from the forensic service stand in front of the Gambetta high school in Arras
French police and fire fighters secure the area after a teacher was killed and several people injured in a knife attack at the Lycee Gambetta-Carnot high school in Arras, northern France
People stand near the Lycee Gambetta-Carnot high school after a teacher was killed and several people injured in a knife attack in Arras, northern France, October 13, 2023
French police officers from the forensic service stand in front of the Gambetta high school
Earlier in the year, two Paris-born gunmen linked to Al-Qaeda broke into the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, leaving 17 people dead inside and three outside.
In July 2016, 86 people were called and more than 400 injured when a 19 tonne truck was deliberately driven into crowds on the seafront promenade in the southern city of Nice.
The terrorist turned out to be a Tunisian immigrant who was shot dead by police.
During the same month, two Isis terrorists murdered an 86-year-old Catholic priest during a church service in Normandy.
And in October 2020, three people were stabbed to death by a Tunisian immigrant in the Notre Dame basilica in Nice.
There have also been frequent knife attacks on the forces of law and order, leading to the deaths of serving police.