Monday 1 May 2017

Fourteen hurt in gun attack at French secondary school

People embrace near the Tocqueville secondary school after a shooting incident injuring at least eight people, in Grasse, southern France, yesterday.
People embrace near the Tocqueville secondary school after a shooting incident injuring at least eight people, in Grasse, southern France, yesterday.
A member of special police unit RAID outside the Tocqueville secondary school. Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard.

Henry Samuel in Paris

A 17-YEAR-OLD student was being held for attempted murder yesterday after opening fire inside a secondary school on the French Riviera, injuring 14 and prompting the government to briefly issue a terror warning.

Carrying two hand guns, a hunting rifle and two "training" grenades, Killian B, as he has been named, entered the Alexis de Tocqueville college in Grasse and opened fire at about noon.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France's education minister, lauded the college's "heroic" headmaster who "rushed towards the student to try and reason with him". Thanks to his actions, "we escaped the worst," she said.

Ms Vallaud-Belkacem described the attack as "the mad act of a fragile, weapon-obsessed young man".

The Grasse prosecutor described him as a loner with a grudge against several other students. A few days before he had reportedly sent classmates a morbid picture of students covered in blood on their group Facebook page.

The boy shot the headmaster, reportedly in the arm, after telling him: "It's not you I'm after."

The headmaster's injuries are not life threatening. Three students were "directly" hit by lead shot but none seriously hurt.

Marianna, a student at the school, told France Info: "I was in English class. We heard a gunshot. We didn't think it was an attack. We had the reflex to go under the tables.

"I went to shut the windows and a guy looked at me in the eyes. He looked like another student. He wasn't very tall. He shot in the air and then ran away. We stayed inside the classrooms until the police emptied the two floors."

Another pupil, Benjamin (16) told 'Nice Matin': "At around 12.40pm, I was sitting down finishing eating.

"I heard a big bang and then two others.

"I turned round and saw someone in the playground firing a shotgun.

"He was shooting through the classroom windows overlooking the playground. When I saw that, I ran away."

Local emergency services advised residents on Twitter to stay at home.

The government briefly launched its mobile telephone application warning of a "terrorist" attack and told people in the area to remain in a safe place.

But an interior ministry spokesman said: "It is clearly too early to confirm the motive for this attack."

The terror alert application warning was later switched off.

Christian Estrosi, president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, said that the attack appeared to be "not at all" terror-related.

Sources close to the inquiry said that the teenager had recently viewed videos of American school shootings.

According to 'Le Monde', he was "fascinated" by the 1999 Colombine high school massacre in which heavily armed students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured 21. The pair subsequently committed suicide.

'Le Monde' said that the Grasse shooter also "made references to Satanism" on social media. Posts on his Twitter account reportedly warned of the end of the world, and showed pictures of armed skeletons, a man with a chainsaw, wolves' heads and scarred skin, said 'Libération'.

There were earlier unconfirmed reports that police were hunting for a suspected accomplice.

The town hall of Grasse had said the shooting appeared to be linked to a "dispute between students".

It said that two teenagers entered the school and tried to shoot a third student. One of the pair managed to escape.

But the interior ministry later said there was only one shooter.

Pupils in all schools in Grasse were confined indoors. Police said that all pupils were now "safe".

French secondary schools have carried out regular practice drills in case of shootings or bomb attacks in response to a wave of terror attacks in France in the past two years. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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