Europe

France anti-Semitism: Hollande condemns Creteil attack

Creteil outside Paris Image copyright AFP
Image caption The brutal attack took place in the town of Creteil south-east of Paris

French President Francois Hollande has spoken out against an "unbearable" assault on a young couple near Paris which ministers say was anti-Semitic.

The two victims, a woman aged 19 and her boyfriend, 21, were tied up in his family's flat and the woman was raped.

Their lawyer said three men had burst into the flat, telling the boyfriend: "You Jews, you have money."

Two of the alleged attackers have been detained and a suspected accomplice is also being held.

They have been placed under formal investigation and are also suspected of beating up an elderly Jewish man last month.

France has the largest Jewish community in Europe and a recent report said there had been a significant increase in anti-Semitic acts there this year. It is also home to the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, and there was a spike in attacks in the summer during Israel's conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

A group representing France's Jewish communities, the CRIF, warned that France was suffering from a "cancer" and said the fight against anti-Semitism had become a "national cause".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The French president said the attack was proof that "evil sweeps through our societies"

President Hollande said that, when such "tragedies" took place, it was not merely the family that was wounded and attacked, but "the best of France that finds itself hurt, broken".

The male victim's younger brother told French news channel BFM-TV that the attackers had targeted his family on Monday because they thought that he ran a local clothing store. In reality he was a salesman who had been transferred to another branch in Paris.

First, the men had assumed that he had brought the cash from the tills home with him but also, he said, it was "because we are Jews: and for them that's synonymous with money".

The two suspected attackers are being investigated for rape, armed robbery, kidnapping and extortion.

The victims' lawyer, Severine Benayoun, told French radio that the attack had revived memories of the 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi.

Mr Halimi, who was 23 and Jewish, was kidnapped by a gang and brutally tortured for three weeks before his body was found near railway tracks in a southern suburb of Paris.

Earlier this year, a French jihadist was accused of murdering four people in a gun attack on the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Brussels.

Two years ago, three Jewish children and their teacher were among seven people murdered by French Islamist Mohamed Merah in the southern city of Toulouse.

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