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Monday, August 23, 2004

Islamic group claims responsibility for Paris Jewish center attack


French investigators said Monday they were skeptical about claims of responsibility for Sunday's attack on a Paris Jewish center by an unknown Islamic group.


The group, Jamaat Ansar Al-Jihad, issued a claim of responsibility Sunday evening on the Islamic Web site known for militant Islamic comment.

The message said the attack was "in response to racist acts by Jews in France against Islam and the Muslims and the desecration of Muslim cemeteries by Jews".

"It is also meant ... as a simple response to the racist and savage acts by Jews in Muslim countries like Palestine and other Muslim and Arab countries," it said.

It said such "acts are carried out by the descendents of monkeys and pigs, with the help of the French government which stands idle before the Jews at the expense of the Muslims in France," AFP news agency reported.

It said the blaze marked the 35th anniversary of a fire at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which gutted the southeastern wing of the holy shrine.

Investigators said they doubted the claim because they did not believe a small neighborhood community center would have drawn attention from international militant groups. As well, the post referred incorrectly to the community center as a synagogue.

The Jewish community center in eastern Paris, used as a meeting place and soup kitchen for the elderly and disadvantaged, was torched before dawn on Sunday. No one was hurt as flames tore through the center on the first floor of a six-story building, located near the Bastille square.

When the smoke cleared, graffiti with anti-Semitic slogans such as "Jews get out" was found scrawled across the walls, police said.