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French leader decries Islamist terror attack against teacher

By The Associated Press
Posted 4:43PM on Friday 16th October 2020 ( 1 month ago )

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” against a history teacher decapitated in a Paris suburb Friday, urging the nation to stand united against extremism.

Macron visited the school where the teacher worked in the town of Conflans-Saint-Honorine and met with staff after the slaying.

“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught ... the freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said.

He said the attack shouldn’t divide France because that’s what the extremists want. “We must stand all together as citizens,” he said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Below is the previous story

French police searched the homes of the health minister, the former prime minister and other top officials Thursday in an investigation into the government's response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The dawn searches, confirmed by the Health Ministry, come as France is fighting against a resurgent epidemic that has now filled a third of the country’s intensive care units with COVID-19 patients and is again putting Europe to the test. President Emmanuel Macron announced curfews on around 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other French metropolitan areas starting Friday night to try to slow the tide.

The investigation threatens to rekindle public frustration with a government that's been accused of lying to the public about mask stocks, underestimating testing needs and overestimating France’s ability to vanquish the pandemic — not once, but now twice.

About 1,000 protesting nurses, doctors and other public hospital staff marched through Paris on Thursday to demand more investment, staff and higher salaries after years of cost cuts.

“We are tired!” read multiple banners.

The searches “will make the people’s mistrust grow,” said Dr. Ludovic Toro, who was among the doctors, COVID-19 patients, prison personnel, police officers and others who filed more than 90 legal complaints in the spring over the government's management of the pandemic.

A special French court for prosecuting government ministers ordered an investigation as a result of their complaints.

Among those whose homes were searched Thursday include Health Minister Olivier Veran, his predecessor Agnes Buzyn, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the current head of the country’s national health service Jerome Salomon, and Sibeth Ndiaye, a former government spokeswoman. Veran’s office was searched as well.

Dr. Toro still has no high-protection masks for his practice, nine months after the first virus case was confirmed in France. And he says he is seeing more patients with COVID-19 symptoms now than he did in the spring.

He and other doctors accuse the government of lying to the public earlier in the year, when top officials told the public masks weren't necessary even as they struggled to secure enough supplies for French hospitals amid surging global demand.

“They should have said that there were no masks. That was the real problem,” he said. “They refused to tell the truth.”

The government has said that its early guidance on not wearing masks was based on limited understanding of the new coronavirus at the time.

Asked about Thursday's searches, current Prime Minister Jean Castex wouldn't comment on the investigation but said he had “total" confidence in the health minister to do his job.

The government continues to send mixed messages about the virus. In addition to the curfew in several cities, the prime minister announced a nationwide ban on public weddings Thursday, even as the president encouraged French people to travel as usual for upcoming autumn school vacations.

The government announced it will deploy 12,000 police to enforce the new curfew, and will spend another 1 billion euros to help businesses hit hardest by the latest virus restrictions.

“Our compatriots thought this health crisis was behind us,” Castex said. “But we can’t live normally again as long as the virus is here.”

France is registering nearly 180 virus cases per 100,000 people every week, with 22,591 total new cases Wednesday. It has reported one of the world's highest virus-related death tolls, at more than 33,000 lives lost.

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Michel Euler and Catherine Gaschka contributed to this report.

FILE - In this March 28, 2020 file photo, French Minister for Solidarity and Health Olivier Veran speaks during a press conference in Paris. French police searched the homes of the former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials Thursday in an investigation into the government response to the global coronavirus pandemic. The Health Ministry confirmed the dawn searches, which included the offices of the current health minister Olivier Veran. (Geoffroy van Der Hasselt, Pool via AP)
FILE - In this March 28, 2020 file photo, French Director General of Health Jerome Salomon speaks in Paris. French police searched the homes of the former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials Thursday in an investigation into the government response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Among those whose homes were searched include former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Veran, his predecessor Agnes Buzyn, top health official Jerome Salomon, and Sibeth Ndiaye, former government spokeswoman. (Geoffroy van Der Hasselt, Pool via AP)
FILE - In this May 2, 2020 file photo, French Health Minister Olivier Veran, left, and French Government's spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye attend a press conference after the cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace, in Paris. French police searched the homes of the former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials Thursday in an investigation into the government response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Among those whose homes were searched include former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Veran, his predecessor Agnes Buzyn, top health official Jerome Salomon, and Sibeth Ndiaye, former government spokeswoman. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool, File)
Medical workers demonstrate to demand better salaries and working conditions, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that millions of French citizens in several regions around the country, including in Paris, will have to respect a 9pm curfew from this Saturday until Dec. 1. It's a new measure aimed at curbing the resurgent coronavirus amid second wave. The measures will require citizens in certain regions where the coronavirus is circulating to be at home after 9pm. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Medical workers demonstrate to demand better salaries and working conditions, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that millions of French citizens in several regions around the country, including in Paris, will have to respect a 9pm curfew from this Saturday until Dec. 1. It's a new measure aimed at curbing the resurgent coronavirus amid second wave. The measures will require citizens in certain regions where the coronavirus is circulating to be at home after 9pm. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Medical workers demonstrate to demand better salaries and working conditions, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that millions of French citizens in several regions around the country, including in Paris, will have to respect a 9pm curfew from this Saturday until Dec. 1. It's a new measure aimed at curbing the resurgent coronavirus amid second wave. The measures will require citizens in certain regions where the coronavirus is circulating to be at home after 9pm. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Commuters wearing masks walk in a corridor of the Paris subway Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that millions of French citizens in several regions around the country, including in Paris, will have to respect a 9pm curfew from this Saturday until Dec. 1. It's a new measure aimed at curbing the resurgent coronavirus amid second wave. The measures will require citizens in certain regions where the coronavirus is circulating to be at home after 9pm. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
Masked commuters sit in a bus Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that millions of French citizens in several regions around the country, including in Paris, will have to respect a 9pm curfew from this Saturday until Dec. 1. It's a new measure aimed at curbing the resurgent coronavirus amid second wave. The measures will require citizens in certain regions where the coronavirus is circulating to be at home after 9pm. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

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