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The deadly 1980 attack on a Paris synagogue

Published on November 13, 2014

The October 3, 1980, bombing of a synagogue on rue Copernic in Paris, whose main suspect Hassan Diab is set to be extradicted from Canada to France, killed four people.

It was the first fatal attack against the French Jewish community since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Canada’s top court refused Thursday to hear university professor Diab’s final plea to halt his extradition to France, effectively ensuring he will face trial for the bombing.

The attack happened on a Friday, on the eve of the Sabbath.

The synagogue, which lay halfway between the Paris landmarks the Arc de Triomphe and the Trocadero, was packed.

Some 300 worshippers were gathered for the ceremony of Simrat Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah).

At 6.

40 pm, when the grand Rabbi Williams read the Jewish prayer for the dead, there was a loud explosion and the synagogue was plunged into darkness.

The ceiling fell in.

Ten kilogrammes of explosives hidden in the saddlebag of a motorbike parked in front of the synagogue had just exploded.

Four people were killed: a passerby, a motorcyclist, the warden of a building across the road and an Israeli journalist.

Around 40 people were injured and there was extensive material damage in the street.

Many cars were burned to a cinder, windows blown out and surrounding buildings shaken.

In the first instance the attack was considered to be by the far right.

On the same day an anonymous caller claimed the attack in the name of a far-right European nationalist group, whose leader quickly issued a denial.

The police, who had no leads, followed up the far right.

Dozens of people were arrested in the days which followed, only to be released.

On October 7 an anti-fascist demonstration gathered 200,000 people in Paris.

The probe turned its gaze on several extremist groups in the Middle East.

In October 2007 the probe was relaunched to gain information in the United States on the suspected perpetrator.

A former member of the radical left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FPLP), Hassan Diab, a part-time sociology professor in two universities in Ottawa, had spent several years in the United States.

Diab became a Canadian citizen in 2006, and is now the father of a nearly two-year-old girl with his common-law wife.

Arrested on November 13, 2008 at the request of the French judicial authorities, he is suspected of having laid explosives in the saddlebag of the motorbike, which he then left near to the synagogue.

Claiming that he was studying in Beirut at the time of the bomb attack, he said he has been confused with someone of the same name.

He is expected to be extradited to France quickly.