Text size

A 17-year-old French Jew was attacked on Saturday night in Paris, an assault condemned by President Nicolas Sarkozy and said by Jewish organizations to be an act of anti-Semitism.

The young man, identified as Rudy Haddad by one Jewish organization, was attacked by youths of African origin, a police source said, and the National Agency of Vigilance Against Anti-emitism said he had been attacked with iron bars.

Police said five youths had been held for questioning, and one police source told Reuters the victim was suffering "serious neurological problems."

The Union of French Jewish Students said Haddad had been identified as Jewish because he was wearing a kippa (skullcap), and had suffered several broken ribs and a fractured skull and was in intensive care at a hospital in central Paris.

"The victim was wearing a kippa and was on his way back home when his attackers, after identifying him as Jewish, started to beat him," the union said.

The number of attackers was not known, varying from 6 or 7 to 30, depending on sources. Haddad's father told French radio RTL there were around 15 attackers.

Two police sources said the attack took place right after a skirmish between two groups of youths, one Jewish and the other of North African origin. They said it was unclear whether Haddad had taken part in the confrontation.

They said such skirmishes were a regular feature in the multi-confessional Buttes Chaumont neighbourhood in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.

The assault was immediately condemned by French President Nicola Sarkozy, who began a three-day visit to Israel on Sunday aimed at reinforcing his image as an ally of the state.

"[Sarkozy] assures the victim and his family of his support and renews his total determination to fight all forms of racism and anti-Semitism," said a statement from Sarkozy's office.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie expressed her "profound emotion" and announced in a statement the opening of an investigation to determine the circumstances of the attack.

A 23-year-old French Jew, Ilan Halimi, was found naked, tortured and covered in burns near Paris on February 13, 2006, after being held captive for three weeks. He died on the way to the hospital.

The crime shocked France and raised fears of surging anti-Semitism among French Muslims.

In February of this year, another Jewish teenager was tortured in the same town in which Halimi was killed, in yet another anti-Semitic attack.