French police shoot suspect dead in synagogue incident

International Desk Published: 17 May 2024, 05:19 PM | Updated: 18 May 2024, 08:26 AM
French police shoot suspect dead in synagogue incident
Firefighters at the synagogue in Rouen where police have killed an armed man. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

French police have shot dead a man armed with a knife and iron bar who tried to set fire to a synagogue in the Normandy city of Rouen, officials said.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, posted on X that the man had been “neutralised”, and he thanked officers for their “reactivity and their courage”.

Police responded at 6.45am on Friday to reports of a fire near the synagogue in Rouen, 80 miles (130km) north-west of Paris.

A source close to the case told Agence France-Presse that the man “was armed with a knife and an iron bar, he approached police, who fired”.

The Rouen prosecutor said the man threatened a police officer with a knife, and the officer used his service weapon.

The regional broadcaster France 3 said firefighters were on the site and the blaze had been brought under control. The man who was shot dead was not immediately identified.

A resident, Elias Morisse, who lives opposite the synagogue, said he heard gunshots and explosions. “I decided to open the shutters of my apartment, and indeed I saw smoke coming from the synagogue, the police, the firefighters and in the street a body - that of the attacker who was shot,” he told AFP.

The city’s mayor, Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, wrote on X: “It is not only the Jewish community that is affected. It is the entire city of Rouen that is bruised and in shock.” He said there were no victims other than the attacker.

Two investigations have been opened, one into the fire at the synagogue and a second into the circumstances of the death of the individual, Rouen prosecutors said.

Elie Korchia, the president of France’s Consistoire Central Jewish worshippers’ body, said police had “avoided another antisemitic tragedy”.

Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), wrote on X: “Attempting to burn a synagogue is an attempt to intimidate all Jews. Once again, there is an attempt to impose a climate of terror on the Jews of our country. Combating antisemitism means defending the republic.”

Tensions have grown in France over the Israel-Gaza war. The number of antisemitic acts has surged in the country, which has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in western Europe.

After red hand graffiti was painted on to France’s Holocaust Memorial this week, Emmanuel Macron condemned “odious antisemitism”.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Gabriel Attal, said 366 antisemitic acts had been recorded in France in the first quarter of 2024 – a 300% increase on the same period in 2023. “No on can deny this wave of antisemitism,” he said.

Source: The Guardian