French Jews sigh with relief after gunman is killed (JERUSALEM POST) By GIL SHEFLER 03/23/12)
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The Jews of France heaved a collective sigh of relief on Thursday
afternoon when news broke that Mohamed Merah, the man who claimed to
have killed four people at the Ozar Harotah Jewish school in
Toulouse, died in a standoff with police.
But French Jewish leaders said that while the threat of another
attack against the community may have decreased with the violent
death of Merah, it had not disappeared.
“Security at Jewish institutions will have to be heightened for the
foreseeable future and we will ask the government to help fund it,”
said Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, the country’s Jewish
Prasquier said he worried other Islamists in France might try to
follow Merah’s path but added that authorities had proven themselves
capable of dealing with such perils.
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, called on
Paris to toughen its legislation on anti-Semitic crimes to prevent
similar events in the future.
“The greatest tribute that can be made for the victims and their
families is to significantly toughen measures against anti- Semitism
and other hate crimes,” Kantor said. “Authorities need to be given
greater powers to act against any form of hate and intolerance.”
The shooting at Ozar Hatorah on Monday morning was the worst act of
violence against the Jewish community in France since 1982, when six
people were killed in a grenade attack on a Jewish restaurant in
Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, 30, his sons Aryeh, six, and Gavriel, three,
and the daughter of the school’s principal, eight-year-old Miriam
Monsonego, were shot dead in the attack in Toulouse.
Authorities linked the attack to two other recent shootings in the
area in which three French soldiers died. They launched a massive
manhunt for the assailant that reached its conclusion on Thursday.
Information about Merah that has come to light over the past 48 hours
seem to raise questions over whether authorities should have
apprehended him sooner.
The 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent was known to have ties
to Islamists and had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nonetheless, it took security forces 10 days from the time the first
paratrooper was murdered on March 11 to track Merah down at his
apartment early on Wednesday morning.
But on Thursday, Toulouse Chief Rabbi Avraham Weill had nothing but
praise for the security forces and the way the government handled the
“Many people will vote for Sarkozy now,” Weill said over the phone
from Paris, referring to the presidential election next month. “He
did what he had to do. I spoke to him personally and was impressed by
how he managed events. He proved his worth.”
Prasquier said that the fact that this generation of French Jews had
not witnessed an attack by Islamists on the community until now –
despite the country’s sizable Muslim population – was in itself
evidence of the efficiency of French law enforcement.
“They are considered by security forces around the world as being
among the most professional, and in fact to think France has not had
a killing spree like in Spain and the UK and other places [is
significant],” he said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/23/12)
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