France probes two students who defended teacher’s beheading

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Two 12-year-olds are under investigation by French police on suspicion of supporting terrorism, over comments made during a homage to a teacher beheaded in a “jihadist” attack, officials said Tuesday.

Prosecutors in the eastern city of Strasbourg said the two school students made their comments during a nationwide minute of silence Monday for the teacher, Samuel Paty.

Paty was killed last month near his school outside Paris by an 18-year-old Chechen man after an angry online campaign over his showing of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed as part of a free-speech lesson.

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Prosecutors said the two youths apparently suggested during discussions in class that Paty deserved to die for showing the controversial cartoons that had been republished by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

They added that two similar incidents were also reported involving children aged eight and nine, prompting a social welfare inquiry.

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said Monday that 66 inquiries into alleged support of terrorism had been opened since Paty’s death on October 16, after alerts to France’s online extremism watchdog Pharos.

“The questioning often involves young people, aged 12 to 16, who have used extremely repugnant language,” Darmanin told a parliamentary panel.

Often the comments and imagery reflect extreme violence “inspired by the Islamic State [ISIS] group, which is very worrying,” he said.

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