France was hit yesterday with two Islamist armed threats against schools and nurseries just hours apart – the latest symptom of rising tensions following a spate of attacks.
Staff at a nursery in the Parisian suburb of Creteil were confronted yesterday by a man brandishing a knife who threatened to kill and rape them before fleeing the scene on foot.
Having sought out the director of Les minis Kids creche, the man approached her with a 15cm-long knife, prosecutors said, and declared: ‘You’re a Jew, you’re a Zionist, five of us are going to come and rape you, cut you up like they did in Gaza,’ in a dark and twisted threat.
Prosecutors said they opened an investigation into the creche break-in and death threats based on ‘race, ethnicity, nationality or religion’.
It came just hours after a 12-year-old schoolgirl was restrained by staff and detained by police after threatening her English teacher with a knife during class at a school in Rennes.
Prosecutor Philippe Astruc said the girl later declared she wanted to carry out her attack ‘like the one in Arras’, referring to an extremist attack on October 13 in which teacher Dominique Bernard was stabbed to death at the northern French town’s Gambetta high school.
The unsettling threats came less than a week after a French court convicted six teenagers for their role in the 2020 beheading of Samuel Paty outside his secondary school near Paris, after they helped to identify him to a radicalised Islamist.
Tensions have been rising in schools in France, which has large Muslim and Jewish communities.
Speaking on the attempted knife attack by the 12-year-old in Rennes yesterday, Astruc said the schoolgirl ‘came to class armed with a large knife with the apparent intention of killing her English teacher.
‘During the lesson, in class, she brandished the knife at the victim who fled running,’ before the girl was disarmed by staff of the Hautes Ourmes junior high school, he added.
‘The pupils, shocked, were immediately moved to safety,’ the local education authority said.
At a press conference, Astruc showed drawings of a kitchen knife, which he said was 17 centimetres (6.7 inches) long.
The girl underwent psychiatric examinations in hospital which concluded that ‘the minor was ‘dangerous for herself’ and that her condition required care in a specialised environment’, Astruc said in a statement Wednesday.
The prosecutor had previously said it appeared the ‘psychological or even psychiatric aspect’ seemed ‘dominant in the act’ by the girl.
In a separate incident last week at Jacques Cartier school in Issou, west of Paris, a group of Muslim students threatened and accused a teacher of racism when she showed an Italian Renaissance painting that depicted nude women to the class.
She was said to have feared for her life after her name was circulated on social media, as this prompted the extremist to target Paty in 2020.
The students are said to have expressed outrage after the teacher showed the 17th century masterpiece – ‘Diana and Actaeon’ by the Italian painter Giuseppe Cesari – in an art class on Thursday.
The work portrays a Greek mythology story in which the hunter Actaeon bursts in at a site where the goddess Diana and her nymphs are bathing. It shows a naked Diana and four nude female companions, and is held at the Louvre museum in Paris.
Last week a teacher in Issou, west of Paris, ‘feared for her life’ after she was lambasted on social media for showing students this Renaissance painting – ‘Diana and Actaeon’ by the Italian painter Giuseppe Cesari
A sign hung outside the school in Issou claimed that incidents at the school were up while resources to deal with them were in short supply
Fellow staff members refused to work on Monday in solidarity with the teacher, as Minister Gabriel Attal visited the school and said that a disciplinary procedure would be launched ‘against the students who are responsible for this situation and who have also admitted the facts’.
Sophie Venetitay, secretary general of the Snes-FSU secondary school teachers’ union, told broadcaster BFMTV: ‘We know well that methods like that can lead to a tragedy… We saw it in the murder of Samuel Paty.
‘Our colleagues feel threatened and in danger.’
Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher, was stabbed and beheaded in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in October 2020, just 12 miles from Issou, after being tracked down by an Islamic extremist who saw his name online.
Paty had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a discussion about free speech.
In an email sent to parents on Friday, teachers in Issou said they were exercising their right to stay away from classrooms over the ‘particularly difficult situation’ at the high school.
They described ‘palpable discomfort’ and ‘an increase in cases of violence’ as their daily reality.
Teachers said the students had admitted to making things up in posts online but that it was too late to quell the anger.
‘We’re dealing with vindictive parents who prefer to believe their children than us,’ they said in a statement.
Teachers at the school said behaviour had been deteriorating even before the row, with students fighting and threatening rape.