New attack targets French Muslim prefect

26th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

NANTES, France, Jan 25 (AFP) - An explosive device blew up Sunday outside a business school in the western city of Nantes run by one of France's first Muslim departmental governors, one week after his car was destroyed in a blast.

NANTES, France, Jan 25 (AFP) - An explosive device blew up Sunday outside a business school in the western city of Nantes run by one of France's first Muslim departmental governors, one week after his car was destroyed in a blast.

 No one was injured in Sunday's pre-dawn explosion at the elite Audencia school of management run by Aissa Dermouche, who was named as the new top administrator for the eastern French department of Jura 10 days ago.

Windows were broken and the door damaged at the school, which the 57-year-old Algerian-born Dermouche has directed since 1989, officials said.

The prefect of the Loire-Atlantique department, or administrative region, Bernard Boucault, immediately went to the scene and an investigation has begun.

The explosive device used in Sunday's blast, which was placed near a guard post, was "not very sophisticated," according to a source close to the probe.

Last Sunday's attack on Dermouche's car provoked condemnation from across the political spectrum in France, amid fears it was a symptom of increasing tensions with the country's five million-strong Muslim community.

No one was hurt in that attack, which also took place before dawn.

Dermouche, who is due to assume his new post in the Jura department next month, has since been under police protection.

In Nantes, public prosecutor Jean-Marie Huet told reporters: "The fact that the entryway to the school was targeted a week after Mr Dermouche's car makes everyone think that there could be a link between the two explosions."

But Huet cautioned that such a connection had to be proven, and that to that end, investigators would comb through evidence from the two blast sites looking for similarities.

Dermouche, who came to France at the age of 18, is the first departmental governor, or prefect, from the generation that immigrated from north Africa in the 1960s. The handful of previous Muslim prefects started their civil service careers before 1962 when Algeria was officially part of France.

His nomination comes at a time of growing concern over how to better integrate the Muslim community in France, and moves by the government to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia in schools, a step many Muslims see as an assault on their basic freedoms.

Police have been looking into the possibility that the attack on Dermouche's Saab was the result of a private grudge rather than an act of Islamist or far-right terrorism, but no motive has been ruled out.

Three men held for questioning last week in connection with the attack, including the former partner of Dermouche's ex-wife, have since been released.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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