French police in front of the nursery school where a hooded man claiming to be acting for Islamic State attacked a teacher with a knife. CHARLES PLATIAU/REUTERS
Officials say a French pre-school teacher lied about an attack, in which he claimed to have been slashed by a man who recited an Islamic State message.
The alleged attack on Monday sparked a manhunt by anti-terrorism police in the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers.
But the Paris prosecutor’s office says the victim made up the story – including a “warning” message from Islamic State.
“He is being interviewed with a view to establishing the reasons for this invented story,” an official said.
The male teacher, from the Jean Perrin pre-school, was taken to hospital on Monday after what he claimed was an attack by a man in a ski mask and gloves, before school began for the day.
Officials earlier said the attacker told the teacher: “this is Daesh. This is a warning”, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, before slashing him in the neck and fleeing the classroom.
The assailant was said to be carrying a box-cutter and scissors.
Both the Paris prosecutor’s office and the local prosecutor told Associated Press the teacher was being questioned by authorities on Monday afternoon.
Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem visited the school on Monday and promised to ensure security at all French schools.
“It’s an act of enormous gravity in a context in which schools feel threatened,” she said, before the attack was revealed as a hoax.
The teacher’s claim came as France remained under a state of emergency after the November 13 attacks in Paris by Islamic State-linked extremists that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.
A few weeks later, Isis urged its followers to attack teachers in France, saying the secular education system was poisoning young minds.
Aubervilliers, a northern suburb, is only four kilometres from the apartment where the suspected organiser of the November 13 attacks was killed in a police raid.
French schools have imposed strict security measures since attacks in January, with doors locked during the day, identity checks for visitors and periodic bag searches. Families dropping off or picking up children are not permitted to linger near schools’ entrances, and children are not allowed to wait in groups outside for the doors to open.
In the November 30 edition of its propaganda magazine, Islamic State issued a call to arms against French schools and criticised a secular charter that every French school must display and teach and which, in many schools, all families must sign.
The attack came days after a knifing in London’s underground urban rail network, which police are treating as a terrorist attack.