MARSEILLE — A 15-year-old supporter of the Islamic State group who slashed a Jewish teacher with a machete in southern France has said he was “proud” of his attack, ahead of a court appearance Wednesday.
The teenager, an ethnic Kurd from Turkey, told police he did not regret the assault on a Jewish teacher in Marseille, the latest in a string of such attacks in recent months.
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, who was to appear in front of a judge on Wednesday where he faces terrorism charges, said he became interested in jihadist theories in March 2014 after seeing documentaries arguing that Muslims were persecuting Westerners.
“One thing led to another and he came upon jihadist websites” arguing that in fact it was Westerners that were persecuting Muslims and he “agreed”, said the police source.
“I don’t represent Daesh, they represent me,” the teenager reportedly told investigators.
Prosecutors have described the teenager as a good student, from a normal background who self-radicalized via the Internet, highlighting the challenge to French authorities in identifying extremists.
The attack has sparked debate 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.
“Unfortunately for us, we are targeted,” he told AFP. “As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death.”
However other Jewish leaders rejected the call, with France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia telling AFP: “We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippa.”
The attack 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.
France’s Jewish community has grown used to living under the surveillance of armed soldiers around synagogues and schools since being targeted in a jihadist attack in Paris last January.
Last weekend, the country marked a year since the attacks which left 17 people dead, including four Jews gunned down in a kosher supermarket.