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Report: Violent Hate Crimes Up in France

March 28, 2003

PARIS (AP) _ Violent hate crimes quadrupled in France in 2002 to the highest level in a decade, with more than half the assaults aimed at Jews, a national study has found.

Assailants carried out 313 acts of racially and religiously motivated violence last year, compared with 71 in 2001, according to the study by the independent National Consulting Committee on Human Rights.

In accepting the report Thursday, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he was worried the war in Iraq would increase religious tensions in France.

``We must prevent international tensions from transferring to our national community,″ he said.

In the report, the committee said 193 of 313 attacks were against Jews in a ``real explosion″ of anti-Semitic violence. Last year, the group reported 32 acts of anti-Jewish violence.

The committee said increased anti-Semitic attacks came against a backdrop of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, and added that many attackers came from rough neighborhoods on the outskirts of France’s cities.

In the last two years, France has suffered a wave of violence against Jewish schools, temples and cemeteries that coincided with new fighting in the Middle East.

The violence, which peaked a year ago when a Marseille synagogue was burned to the ground, has decreased. But Muslim-Jewish relations remain tense. France has the largest Jewish community in western Europe and one of the continent’s biggest Muslim populations.

France’s large North African community also was targeted.

Of 47 attacks against them, 25 of those were attributed to the extreme-right. One person of North African origin was killed _ the only death mentioned in the report. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks stirred anti-Muslim sentiment, the report said.

Violence by France’s far-right groups dropped in 2002. Nine percent of the reported attacks were blamed on the far right, compared with 14 percent in 2001, the report said.

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