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French police kill man who was trying to set fire to synagogue

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French police kill man who was trying to set fire to synagogue
Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

French police on Friday shot dead a man armed with a knife and a crowbar who was trying to set fire to a synagogue in the northern city of Rouen, adding to concerns over an upsurge of anti-Semitic violence in the country.

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The French Jewish community, the third largest in the world, has for months been on edge in the face of a growing number of attacks and desecrations of memorials.

"National police in Rouen neutralised early this morning an armed individual who clearly wanted to set fire to the city's synagogue," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Police responded at 6.45 am to reports of "fire near the synagogue", a police source said.

A source close to the case told AFP the man "was armed with a knife and an iron bar, he approached police, who fired. The individual died".

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"It is not only the Jewish community that is affected. It is the entire city of Rouen that is bruised and in shock,” Rouen Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol wrote on X.

He made clear there were no other victims other than the attacker.

Two separate investigations have been opened, one into the fire at the synagogue and another into the circumstances of the death of the individual killed by the police, Rouen prosecutors said.

Such an investigation by France's police inspectorate general is automatic whenever an individual is killed by the police.

The man threatened a police officer with a knife and the latter used his service weapon, said the Rouen prosecutor.

The dead man was not immediately identified, a police source said.

Asked by AFP, the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor's Office said that it is currently assessing whether it will take up the case.

France has the largest Jewish community of any country after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe's largest Muslim community.

There have been tensions in France in the wake of the October 7th attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel, followed by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Red hand graffiti was painted onto France's Holocaust Memorial earlier this week, prompted anger including from President Emmanuel Macron who condemned "odious anti-Semitism".

"Attempting to burn a synagogue is an attempt to intimidate all Jews. Once again, there is an attempt to impose a climate of terror on the Jews of our country. Combating anti-Semitism means defending the Republic," Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF). wrote on X.

France was hit from 2015 by a spate of Islamist attacks that also hit Jewish targets. There have been isolated attacks in recent months and France's security alert remains at its highest level.

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