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French religious Jew stabbed in possible Islamist attack

Hasidic victim in Strasbourg lightly injured by knifeman shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ according to witnesses; attacker, said to have mental issues, arrested

Illustrative. A French soldier stands guard in front of the Great Mosque in Strasbourg, eastern France, during Friday prayers on November 20, 2015. Muslims gathered here to pay tribute to the victims of the November 13 attacks. (AFP/Partrick Hertzog)
Illustrative. A French soldier stands guard in front of the Great Mosque in Strasbourg, eastern France, during Friday prayers on November 20, 2015. Muslims gathered here to pay tribute to the victims of the November 13 attacks. (AFP/Partrick Hertzog)

A religious Jew was stabbed and injured in the French city of Strasbourg Friday morning, in what was immediately suspected as an Islamist-inspired anti-Semitic attack.

The victim, described in media reports as a Hasidic man wearing distinctive religious garb including a kippa (skullcap worn by religious Jews), was lightly injured in the attack in the northeastern French city, home to some 15,000 Jews.

The attacker, who is thought to be mentally ill, was arrested, a local police source told AFP.

Strasbourg chief rabbi Rene Gutman told AFP witnesses said the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is greatest,” during the attack, which occurred just outside the victim’s home, near the central synagogue of Strasbourg.

The local prosecutor’s office confirmed the arrest and said an investigation had been launched.

Gutman said the attacker had also assaulted a Jewish person in 2010, and was not representative of the spirit of coexistence in the city.

Condemning the attack, he said it “in no way reflects the prevailing climate in Strasbourg,” which has a large Jewish community. He said Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve had called to express solidarity.

But he also called for action to prevent the attacker reoffending.

“If this person can go back onto the street, and stabs any man in a kippa he meets, that’s a problem,” he said.

Mendel Samana, another rabbi who came on the scene shortly after the stabbing, said the victim was “very shocked and feels he had a lucky escape”.

Samana said the victim, a father of three, had told him he had managed to escape after receiving a single stab wound and sought help in a nearby bar.

“I hope this remains an isolated act,” Mandel said.

The attack comes as France reels from a string of jihadist attacks in the past year-and-a-half, beginning with the January 2015 killings in Paris at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

Amedy Coulibaly, a Frenchman claiming allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group, shot dead four people at the kosher grocery, two days after the al-Qaeda-linked Kouachi brothers killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices.

Seven months ago, a 15-year-old supporter of the Islamic State group attacked a Jewish teacher in Marseille with a machete.

AP contributed to this report.

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