French police kill armed man who set synagogue on fire in Rouen

French police kill armed man who set synagogue on fire in Rouen

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

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

Emergency services were alerted after a fire was detected at the synagogue in the city 80 miles (130km) north-west of Paris. The man was spotted on the synagogue roof brandishing an iron bar and a kitchen knife, the prosecutor handling the case said.

Smoke was coming out of one window at the synagogue, the Rouen prosecutor Frederic Teillet told reporters.

The attacker jumped off the roof and ran towards one police officer, threatening him with a knife. The officer warned him to stop but he continued. The officer then “shot him five times, hitting him four times”, Teillet said. The man died at the scene.

The attacker, who has not been identified publicly, was subject to an order to be expelled from France. But he had made an appeal against the decision, which meant the expulsion was suspended while the appeal was taking place.

Firefighters were on the site and the blaze was brought under control.

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.

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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 Agence France-Presse.

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.

Élie 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.”

After a 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 one can deny this wave of antisemitism,” he said.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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