Abdoulakh Anzorov

Abdoulakh Anzorov was a French immigrant of Chechen origin who beheaded history teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb on October 16, 2020, allegedly as revenge against Paty showing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in his class. Anzorov was subsequently shot and killed by police.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0. There were no immediate claims of responsibility by terror groups, but online ISIS supporters began circulating images of Paty’s corpse that Anzorov uploaded before police killed him.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0.

Anzorov’s attack appeared to be directly motivated by Paty showing images of Muhammad. On September 2, 2020, a trial began in France of 14 alleged accomplices in the January 2015 attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store.Noemie Bisserbe, “Charlie Hebdo Trial Begins Five Years After Terrorist Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, September 2, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/charlie-hebdo-trial-begins-five-years-after-terrorist-attacks-11599052956. In early October, Paty showed his students caricatures of Muhammad as part of a lesson on freedom of speech. Brahim Chnina, the father of a 13-year-old student in Paty’s class, accused Paty of Islamophobia over social media. Two weeks later, on October 16, Anzorov arrived at the College du Bois d’Aulne in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where Paty worked. Anzorov did not know Paty prior to the attack and asked students to point out the teacher. He then proceeded to stab and behead Paty.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0; “France teacher attack: Suspect ‘asked pupils to point Samuel Paty out,’” BBC News, October 17, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54581827. Anzorov filmed the moments before the attack and the attack itself, which he uploaded to the Internet.Jack Newman, Jack Wright, Peter Allen, and Chris Jewers, “Thousands rally in Paris in protest at murder of teacher Samuel Paty by refugee Islamist terrorist, 18, who FILMED moment he beheaded him for showing pupils cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and then posted grisly clip online,” Daily Mail (London), last updated October 19, 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8852237/Islamist-terrorist-filmed-moment-beheaded-teacher-France-showing-cartoons-Mohammed.html. Anzorov also uploaded a picture of Paty’s body to Twitter with a confession of killing one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s “hellhounds who dared to belittle Mohammed….”Ally Foster, “Video of teacher’s beheading in Paris shared to social media,” News.com.au, October 19, 2020, https://www.news.com.au/world/europe/video-of-teachers-beheading-in-paris-shared-to-social-media/news-story/2277cfd2fe5a4e25a96aa723fc22d179. Police soon after arrived and Anzorov fired his air gun and attempted to stab officers, who subsequently shot Anzorov nine times.Ally Foster, “Video of teacher’s beheading in Paris shared to social media,” News.com.au, October 19, 2020, https://www.news.com.au/world/europe/video-of-teachers-beheading-in-paris-shared-to-social-media/news-story/2277cfd2fe5a4e25a96aa723fc22d179. Police then summoned a bomb disposal unit on the suspicion Anzorov had an explosive vest, which he did not.Elizabeth Little, “EACHER KILLER Paris beheading attack – Paris jihadi told kids to point out teacher before beheading him in the street,” Sun (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.the-sun.com/news/1644440/paris-beheaded-attack-france-bomb-vest-shot-live/. Following the attack, pro-ISIS supporters on the encrypted Telegram messaging service shared video and images of the attack and Paty’s decapitated body.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0.

Anzorov was born in Moscow to parents of Chechen decent. He moved to France from Russia with his family in 2008 when he was 6 years old to seek asylum.“Chechen suspect in French teachers beheading had no links with Russia, embassy says,” RFI, October 17, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20201017-chechen-suspect-in-french-teachers-beheading-had-no-links-with-russia-embassy-says. Though Anzorov was born in Moscow to Chechen parents, he had only visited Chechnya when he was a young child. Russian journalists and civil society leaders suggested a possible avenue of radicalization for Anzorov and other Chechens is extreme rhetoric from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been a vocal opponent of illustrations of the Islamic prophet. After the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, Kadyrov led a rally protesting the magazine’s publication of the Muhammad cartoons. After news spread that Paty had shown Muhammad cartoons in his class, Kadyrov chastised France over social media for its “unacceptable attitude to Islamic values.”Anna Nemtsova, “Family of Moscow-Born Teen Who Beheaded Teacher Were from Chechnya Where Charlie Hebdo Cartoons Are Demonized,” Daily Beast, October 19, 2020, https://www.thedailybeast.com/family-of-moscow-born-teen-who-beheaded-teacher-were-from-chechnya-where-charlie-hebdo-cartoons-are-demonized. Additionally, Anzorov’s half-sister had joined ISIS in Syria in 2014.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0; Ally Foster, “Video of teacher’s beheading in Paris shared to social media,” News.com.au, October 19, 2020, https://www.news.com.au/world/europe/video-of-teachers-beheading-in-paris-shared-to-social-media/news-story/2277cfd2fe5a4e25a96aa723fc22d179.

In the days immediately following the attack, French police conducted dozens of raids and opened more than 80 investigations into people who voiced support for Paty’s murder. Police arrested several suspects in connection with the attack, including Chnina and members of Anzorov’s family.“French police raid homes in online Islamist crackdown after teacher’s killing,” RFI, October 19, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20201019-french-police-raid-homes-in-online-islamist-crackdown-after-treacher-s-killing-samuel-paty-islamophobia. Police also launched investigations into multiple organizations suspected of promoting Islamism.Gérald Darmanin, Twitter post, October 19, 2020, 3:23 a.m., https://twitter.com/GDarmanin/status/1318090336384782336; “French police raid homes in online Islamist crackdown after teacher’s killing,” RFI, October 19, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20201019-french-police-raid-homes-in-online-islamist-crackdown-after-treacher-s-killing-samuel-paty-islamophobia; “France beheading: Minister wants to dissolve Islamic NGOs after murder of teacher Samuel Paty,” EuroNews, October 19, 2020, https://www.euronews.com/2020/10/19/france-beheading-minister-wants-to-dissolve-islamic-ngos-after-murder-of-teacher-samuel-pa. Police arrested French Islamic activist Abdelhakim Sefraoui, a friend of Chnina’s and also the founder and president of the Cheikh Yassine Collective, named after the co-founder of Hamas.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0; “France: Head of pro-Hamas group and parent put fatwa on beheaded French teacher,” Times of Israel, October 19, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/head-of-pro-hamas-group-and-school-parent-said-behind-fatwa-on-beheaded-teacher/. French police were reportedly aware of Sefraoui because of a history of anti-Semitic speeches and Islamist activities.“France: Head of pro-Hamas group and parent put fatwa on beheaded French teacher,” Times of Israel, October 19, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/head-of-pro-hamas-group-and-school-parent-said-behind-fatwa-on-beheaded-teacher/. In early October, Sefraoui visited Paty’s school with Chnina to demand Paty’s dismissal. Chnina later posted a video to YouTube denouncing Paty as a “thug.” In another video, he called for France’s Muslims to mobilize.Ally Foster, “Video of teacher’s beheading in Paris shared to social media,” News.com.au, October 19, 2020, https://www.news.com.au/world/europe/video-of-teachers-beheading-in-paris-shared-to-social-media/news-story/2277cfd2fe5a4e25a96aa723fc22d179. Sefraoui and Chnina reportedly issued a fatwa against Paty.“France: Suspects behind beheading called for teacher’s death,” Al Jazeera, October 19, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/19/fatwa-launched-against-beheaded-teacher-french-minister. Three days after Paty’s murder, French prosecutors found no direct link between radical French Islamist movements and Anzorov, but they pointed to a hateful atmosphere on social media and identified an indirect link between these groups and the crime.David Roe, “Radical Islam, social networks and the Conflans attack,” RFI, October 18, 2020, https://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20201018-radical-islam-social-networks-and-the-conflans-attack.

French society galvanized in support of Paty after his murder. The hashtag #JeSuisSamuel (“I am Samuel”) began to circulate on Twitter, harkening to the Je Suis Charlie slogan after the attack on the satirical magazine’s office in January 2015. French Prime Minister Jean Castex denounced Paty’s murder as a “vile attack” on French secularism.“Parent’s hate campaign ‘led to beheading of French teacher,’” Times (London), October 18, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parents-hate-campaign-led-to-beheading-of-french-teacher-ltt3xfqw0.

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