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17-year-old student held after teacher shot at French school

A HEAVILY armed student injured his head teacher and two other people in a shooting at a French high school yesterday, rattling nerves in a country repeatedly the target of jihadist attacks.

The 17-year-old was arrested in possession of a rifle, two handguns and two grenades after the attack at the Tocqueville high school in Grasse in southern France, police said.

The head of the regional government, Christian Estrosi, said the shooting was not being seen as a terror attack at this stage.

Estrosi said the head teacher had been shot but not seriously injured. Two students were slightly injured.

There was conflicting information about whether a second suspect was on the run, with police initially saying they were looking for an accomplice. Another police source said the shooter acted alone.

“It was like being in a movie. We’re not used to it, we hear about these things in Paris but not here. I was totally panicked,” one student at the school, Andreas, told BFM television.

France is still in a state of emergency after a series of terror attacks that included a massacre in Paris in November 2015, claimed by the Islamic State group, and a truck attack in Nice, just 40 kilometers from Grasse, in July last year.

The shooting comes about 40 days before a two-stage presidential election in April and May in which security is a major issue.

All schools in Grasse were locked down after the late-morning shooting, which led panicked students to flee the school and hide.

The French government has bolstered security outside schools following a series of attacks since January 2015.

More than 3,000 reservists were called up to help keep watch outside the country’s 64,000 primary and secondary schools for the return to the school year in September.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve cut short a trip because of the shooting, as well as a letter bomb blast at the International Monetary Fund in Paris. A secretary at the agency suffered burns to her hands and face after opening a parcel containing explosive material.

Employees were evacuated from the building near the Arc de Triomphe.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde condemned it as a “cowardly act of violence.”

The last major attack in a French school was in 2012, when an Islamic extremist from Toulouse, Mohamed Merah, shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school before being killed by police.

In March 1984, a 15-year-old student shot and killed a teacher in the southwestern town of Castres before turning the gun on himself.


 

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