France left shocked by anti-Semitic attack in flat

'It is the greatness of France that finds itself wounded' - Francois Hollande
'It is the greatness of France that finds itself wounded' - Francois Hollande
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French president François ­Hollande has spoken out about a brutal assault on a young ­couple near Paris which ministers say was anti-Semitic.

The 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.”

The attack has revived ­worries about long-simmering anti- Semitic sentiment in France.

Mr Hollande reiterated calls from campaigners who said there was a need to fight anti-Semitism.

“A family in a city in France was attacked because it is ­Jewish,” Mr Hollande said yesterday at the Élysée Palace.

“When such dramas occur, such tragedies, it is not simply the family that is wounded, ­attacked. It is the greatness of France that finds itself wounded, damaged.”

The Service for the Protection of the Jewish Community in France says two suspects have been detained and charged with a religiously motivated act of ­violence, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping and extortion.

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

French media reported a third suspect was later charged, apparently as an accomplice.

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The assailants forced their way into the apartment in the Paris suburb of Créteil.

The young man, whom ­authorities have not identified, told France-Info radio yesterday that the attackers “apparently thought that given that my ­family is Jewish, Jews have money.” He said the assailants repeatedly asked where the ­family money was kept and talked about attacking Jews.

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 rise in attacks in the summer during Israel’s conflict with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Prime minister Manuel Valls tweeted yesterday that the ­attack in Créteil showed “the fight against anti-Semitism is a daily fight”.

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 victims’ lawyer, Séverine 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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