Suspicious car with gas canisters found outside Marseille synagogue
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Suspicious car with gas canisters found outside Marseille synagogue

After initial alarm, police say vehicle did not contain any detonation trigger, and may not have been booby-trapped as first feared

Illustrative. Police guard a synagogue during a visit by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, January 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Illustrative. Police guard a synagogue during a visit by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, January 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

A car containing gas canisters was found Saturday outside a synagogue in the southern port city of Marseille, French media reported.

Police initially feared the vehicle found Saturday morning outside the Bar Yohaye Jewish Community Center and synagogue in Marseille’s 4th Arrondissement, east of the Saint-Charles railways station, was booby-trapped.

Security forces convened at the site in large numbers, and a cordon was erected in the area.

But Laurent Nuñez, the police commissioner of the Bouches-du-Rhône region, later told La Provence the car had no trigger mechanism to cause an explosion and was not stolen.

There was no indication that the car found in Marseille was connected in any way to what police believe was a foiled attempt to carry out a terrorist attack in Paris last week, involving a car with several gas cylinders that was found abandoned near Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral, Nuñez added.

Police in Marseille were trying to locate the owner of the car they found near the synagogue, Nuñez said.

The failed attack near Notre Dame Cathedral was spearheaded by a group of women that included a 19-year-old whose written pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State group was found by police, a security official said Friday.

France has seen a string of devastating terror attacks by jihadists in the past two years, some specifically targeting French Jews and some which have happened in Marseille. In January, Jewish teacher Binyamin Amsalem was injured when he was attacked outside a synagogue in the city by a man wielding a machete. Police said the perpetrator was caught 10 minutes later and taken into custody. A day later, a top Jewish leader in Marseille urged local Jews to refrain from wearing skullcaps “until better days.”

In November 2015, another teacher at a Jewish school in Marseille was stabbed by three people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities. A month earlier, a rabbi and two Jewish worshipers were stabbed outside a Marseille synagogue following Shabbat prayers. The knife-wielding assailant could be heard shouting anti-Semitic slurs during the attack.

In January 2015, four Jews were killed when jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris, two days after fellow Islamist terrorists shot dead 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a day after he himself shot dead a policewoman.

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