BRUSSELS — Prosecutors said Monday that a teacher who claimed he was attacked by a masked Islamic State assailant fabricated the story and was being questioned.
The alleged assault, reported Monday by a preschool teacher in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, promptly set off a manhunt for the purported attacker.
The speedy response by authorities showed that France remains jittery a month after a terrorist massacre that killed 130 people in the capital. Within hours of Monday’s reported assault, France’s education minister had visited the school vowing to bolster security and police were combing the region for the alleged assailant.
The Paris prosecutor’s office later said the teacher made up his account of being stabbed by a man who claimed to be inspired by the Islamic State, the militant group that asserted responsibility for last month’s attacks. The prosecutor’s office said the teacher was being questioned Monday afternoon.
Investigators were trying to determine a motive for the alleged hoax. The teacher remained hospitalized for superficial wounds, the daily newspaper Le Parisien reported.
Earlier, Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said counterterrorism authorities were investigating the incident.
The teacher “was in his classroom,” Pascal Beaudet, the mayor of Aubervilliers, told reporters outside the Jean Perrin d’Aubervilliers primary school, conveying the teacher’s account. “He was surprised by an individual who was in the school.” Beaudet said the teacher was hospitalized.
France’s BFMTV, citing police sources, said that the alleged assailant had shouted, “It’s Daesh. This is a warning,” as he stabbed the 45-year-old teacher in the neck and side with either a box-cutter or scissors. Daesh is an Arabic name for the Islamic State.
The Islamic State threatened French schoolteachers in the November issue of its French-language propaganda magazine, calling for attacks on the French education system. The group said French teachers were “enemies of Allah” because they taught secular values.
No students were in the school at the time of the alleged attack, which was reported to have occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Paris time, Beaudet said. Aubervilliers is a suburb just northeast of Paris, on the way to the Charles de Gaulle airport. It has a large North African immigrant population. The man charged with an attack on a French high-speed train in August, Ayoub el-Khazzani, lived in Aubervilliers for several months.
“With the Interior Ministry, we are going to continue to reinforce security measures, in a context where, yes, schools feel under threat,” Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Monday in front of the school.
A knife attack last week in London’s subway system was being treated by authorities as a terrorist incident.
William Branigin in Washington contributed to this report.