French police kill man trying to set fire to synagogue

Saturday, May 18, 2024

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

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.Emergency services were alerted after a fire was detected at the synagogue, with the man spotted on its roof brandishing an iron bar and a kitchen knife, the prosecutor handling the case said.

Smoke was coming out of one window at the synagogue, Rouen prosecutor Frederic Teillet told reporters.The attacker ran towards one police officer threatening him with a knife. The officer then “shot him five times, hitting him four times”, the prosecutor said. The man died at the scene.

The attacker, who has not been identified, was subject to an order to be expelled from France but it had not been carried out because of an appeal, a source close to the case said.

“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.

“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, calling for a solidarity rally at the town hall in the evening.

“Tonight is the beginning of the Sabbath and it’s important to light the candles to show that we are not afraid,” Rouen’s chief Rabbi Chmouel Lubecki told reporters.

The synagogue is in the historic centre of the city, the main city of the northern region of Normandy that lies on the River Seine.France has the largest Jewish community of any country after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe’s largest Muslim community.