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French teen charged in machete attack on Jewish teacher

Suspect reportedly says ‘ashamed’ he didn’t kill victim, is indicted for ‘attempted assassination linked to a terrorist organization’

Benjamin Amsellem, right, a Jewish teacher stabbed by a 15-year-old with a machete who claimed Islamic State inspiration, speaks to the press as he leaves the main police headquarters in Marseille, southeastern France, January 12, 2016. (AFP/ BORIS HORVAT)
Benjamin Amsellem, right, a Jewish teacher stabbed by a 15-year-old with a machete who claimed Islamic State inspiration, speaks to the press as he leaves the main police headquarters in Marseille, southeastern France, January 12, 2016. (AFP/ BORIS HORVAT)

PARIS — A French judge handed preliminary charges of “attempted assassination linked to a terrorist organization” to a machete-wielding teen who attacked a Jewish teacher.

The anti-terrorism section of the prosecutor’s office in the French capital announced the charges Wednesday evening, two days after the attack in Marseilles that shocked the country.

A source close to the investigation told local media the boy had said he was “ashamed” that he did not manage to kill the 35-year-old teacher, Benjamin Amsellem.

The teenager, an ethnic Kurd from Turkey, told police he did not regret the assault, and that he was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.

In the wake of the attack a debate began in France’s Jewish community over whether men and boys should stop wearing the skullcap identifying their religion.

Zvi Ammar, the leader of Marseille’s Jewish community, urged male Jews to stop wearing the kippa “until better days,” because of fears for their safety.

The stabbing was the third in recent months on Jews in Marseille, the Mediterranean city that is home to the second-largest Jewish population in France after Paris with some 70,000.

In October a knife-wielding, drunken assailant attacked three Jews near a synagogue in the city.

In November, another Jewish teacher was stabbed by people shouting anti-Semitic obscenities and support for the Islamic State group.

Anti-Semitic acts in France have soared in recent years, increasing by 84 percent in the period between January 2015 and May 2015 compared with a year earlier, according to official statistics.

France is still reeling from a series of attacks in Paris on November 13 that killed 130 people and just marked the anniversary of attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store which killed 17 people. In each case, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

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