PARIS (Reuters) – Here is what we know so far about a knife attack that killed one teacher and left another wounded at a high school in northern French town of Arras on Friday. The suspected assailant and one of his brothers have been arrested.
Who is the suspect?
The suspected attacker was known to law enforcement agencies and was on a state ‘Fiche S’ watchlist of people known as a potential security risk. It is not on its own a cause for arrest.
The list contains thousands of names and only a small minority are under surveillance. They can include gangsters, prison escapees as well as those with suspected Islamist sympathies or allegiances.
BFM TV reported that the suspect had been placed under increased monitoring.
There was conflicting information over whether he was a Russian-born Chechen or Russian-born Ingush.
He was a former student at the Lycee Gambetta high school where the attack occurred. A teacher described his as a calm, reasonable student whilst he was at the school.
One of the suspect’s brothers was arrested nearby.
A security source said another brother of the alleged assailant was serving time in prison for links to Islamist militant networks and glorification of terrorist acts.
How did the attack play out?
The attack took place in the school’s car park.
An video filmed by a witness from a building overlooking the yard shows three people trying to fend the attacker off with a chair. The attacker, wearing a jacket and white trainers, is seen delivering blows to one of the men on the ground.
“He’s got a knife, he’s got a knife,” one witness is heard exclaiming.
One teenage student said an alarm was triggered and students assumed it was a drill.
One member of staff said the assailant was specifically looking for history teachers and that he did not appear to be simply looking to settle a personal vendetta.
A security alert was also triggered at a second high school in Arras. French media reported a third person was detained there trying to enter the school with a suspicious backpack.
Is the attack linked to fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict?
The Middle East conflict has in the past often stoked domestic tensions in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.
A day before the Arras attack, President Emmanuel Macron had urged citizens not to allow an overseas conflict ferment hatred and divisions in the country.
A police source said there was no immediate indication of a link between events in Israel and the Gaza Strip and the attacker.
Education Minister Gabriel Attal said security would be strengthened at schools.
The anti-terrorism prosecutor has taken over the investigation.
(Reporting by Paris bureau; Editing by Richard Lough)