Anti-Jewish attack on mother and baby shakes France

12th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 11 (AFP) - French officials, civil rights groups and Jewish associations at the weekend expressed outrage at a new anti-Semitic attack committed just as President Jacques Chirac and his government vowed to crack down on racist acts.

PARIS, July 11 (AFP) - French officials, civil rights groups and Jewish associations at the weekend expressed outrage at a new anti-Semitic attack committed just as President Jacques Chirac and his government vowed to crack down on racist acts.

Chirac himself on Saturday called the attack, on a 23-year-old mother and her 13-month-old baby, "shameful" and said in a statement that the perpetrators must be found and punished with the full severity of the law.

The assault occurred early Friday, when six unidentified men said to be of North African Arab and African origin grabbed the victim as she travelled on a Paris suburban train, robbed her, cut her hair and clothes with knives and drew three swastikas on her body.

They also overturned the woman's pram with her baby inside.

Police said the attackers' motivation appeared anti-Semitic. They assumed - wrongly - that the woman was Jewish because she lived in Paris's well-heeled 16th district, officers said.

"Only Jews live in the 16th district," one of the men was quoted as having said.

Nicole Guedj, a senior government official in charge of victims' rights who talked by telephone with the woman on Sunday, said she was "suffering from psychological trauma."

Guedj said "witnesses did nothing to help" the woman.

Police said it was still unclear if there were any other passengers on the same train car at the time of the attack.

The interior ministry said police had been ordered to find the attackers.

Police appealed Sunday for any witnesses to come forward, and were expected to fan out Monday morning at stations along the same suburban RER D line to try to find anyone who might have seen the attackers.

Police were also said to be reviewing footage from surveillance cameras inside the stations.

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the "savage and anti-Semitic assault ... puts our common values, our unity and our safety under threat".

The head of the opposition Communist Party, Marie-George Buffet, said the "barbaric" acts suggested there was a "resurgence of a neo-Nazi type of ideology".

The League of Human Rights called the assault "abject and frightening" while the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France said it hoped those responsible would be caught and made examples of.

The attack came as government ministers met Friday to specifically discuss ways to tackle rising racist attacks in France, particularly against Jews.

"The seriousness of the situation must lead to new initiatives to stop racism and anti-Semitism taking root," Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in a statement.

Officials said there had been a worrying increase in such incidents so far this year, based on police figures showing that the number of anti-Jewish and anti-Arab acts in France in the first six months of 2004 outstripped those for all of 2003.

There were 135 physical acts (vandalism, arson, assault, and attacks or attempted attacks) against Jews in the first half of 2004, compared to 127 for all of 2003, according to the statistics.

For the same period, there were additionally 95 acts against other ethnic groups - mainly those of North African Arab background - compared to 92 for all of last year.

The country is home to Europe's biggest Jewish and Muslim communities, estimated at 600,000 and five million respectively.

Chirac on Thursday underlined his determination to fight racism of all types in a speech in the central French town of Chambon-sur-Lignon, which during World War II took in some 5,000 Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and their French collaborators

He called on all French people to actively counter the trend, and asked parents "to remind their children of the deadly danger of fanaticism, of exclusion, of cowardice and of giving in to extremism."

Recent racist acts have included the son of a rabbi being beaten by five youths near his Paris home, a rabbi in another suburb being struck and insulted, and a 15-year-old Jewish boy being assaulted at an ice-skating rink in a Paris suburb.

Jewish and Muslim tombs in cemeteries around France have also been defaced with graffiti, notably neo-Nazi slogans and symbols.

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© AFP

Subject: French news

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