Tensions are high in France after a teacher was stabbed to death on Friday in what appears to be a terrorist attack. Another attack near Paris was apparently thwarted and two museums had to be evacuated due to terror warnings.
The French army was consequently deployed and the Louvre in Paris, the largest art museum in the world, as well as the Palace of Versailles, were evacuated on Saturday.
Rugby fans from all over the world, including many South Africans, are currently in France to follow the Rugby World Cup.
The attack took place on Friday in the northeastern town of Arras, home to a large group of Muslims and Jews. A man in his 20s entered the school, stabbed the teacher Dominique Bernard to death and seriously wounded three more people, including another teacher and a security guard. The suspect was previously a learner at the school. During the attack, he shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is great).
The suspect has since been arrested and he, along with several members of his family, is currently in custody.
The French government called it an “Islamic terrorist act”. Authorities suspect the incident is related to tensions in the Middle East.
On Saturday, fears grew that the war between Israel and Hamas could spill over into violence in neighboring countries. France called up 7,000 soldiers and had the Louvre in Paris evacuated and closed.
A spokesperson for the Louvre told AFP that the museum had received a written note that the Louvre and its visitors were in danger.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, visited the school where the attack took place today (Saturday).
“This school has been hit by the barbarity of Islamic terrorism,” he said, adding that the teacher tried to stop the attacker and thus probably saved many other lives. He said another attack near Paris was repelled by security forces, referring to the arrest of a “radicalized man”, after he left a prayer hall in the Yvelines area near Paris. The man had a prohibited weapon with him.
The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecuting Authority has since announced that the incidents are being investigated.
The French interior minister on Thursday banned marches in solidarity with Palestinians, as the government believes it would disturb public order. Nevertheless, on the same day, thousands of people gathered in Paris and other French cities and chanted anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. The police dispersed the protesters with tear gas.