A knife-wielding man has been shot dead by French police after beheading a school teacher in the street of a Paris suburb.
France’s anti-terror prosecutor said it was investigating the killing, which took place in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, northwest of central Paris on Saturday morning Australian time.
“A citizen has been murdered today because he was a teacher and because he taught freedom of expression,” French President Emmanuel Macron said near the school.
He described the attack as Islamist extremism.
“The whole country stands behind its teachers. Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not win,” he said.
The history teacher had shown pupils in his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which are considered by Muslims to be blasphemous, according to a police source.
The teacher had received threats after opening a discussion “for a debate” about the caricatures about 10 days ago, police officials say.
The parent of a student had filed a complaint against the teacher.
However police say the suspected killer did not have a child at the school.
An ID card was found at the scene and French media are reporting that the suspect was an 18-year-old Chechen, born in Moscow.
The DPA news agency quoted a police source as saying witnesses had heard the attacker shout “Allahu akbar”, or “God is Great”.
A French police spokesman said that information was still being confirmed.
The suspected attacker was spotted by a police patrol a short distance from the scene of the killing. He was carrying a knife and reportedly a firearm.
The man issued threats when confronted by police and was subsequently shot by the officers. He he died a short time later, a police spokesmen said.
The scene is now sealed off, as the investigation continues.
Local mayor Thibault Humbert described the killing as a “barbaric act”.
Mr Humbert told BFMTV he had been informed in a telephone call that a person had been “decapitated” in a neighbouring area and that the attacker had been shot dead.
He advised local people to remain at home.
In a video posted recently on social media, a man describing himself as a father at the school said the teacher who was slain had recently shown an offensive image of a man and told students it was “the prophet of the Muslims.”
Before showing the images, the teacher asked Muslim children to leave the room because he planned to show something shocking, the man said.
The man had called on other angry parents to contact him, and relay the message.
France has experienced a series of violent attacks carried out by Islamist militants in the past several years.
A Paris trial is currently underway into the alleged accomplices in the deadly 2015 attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
A Pakistani man attacked and wounded two people outside the former offices of the magazine two weeks ago.