MEXICO CITY (AP) _ An Israeli rabbi, apparently on a fund-raising visit, was stabbed 18 times and killed in the Mexican capital, officials said today. The killers were unknown.

Hassan Avraham, 48, of Bnei Brak was attacked late Tuesday night while taking a walk near the house of friends with whom he was staying, according to the Mexico City daily El Universal, quoting police.

``What the police say is that it appears to be an assault, a normal criminal attack,'' said Einat Kranz, press attache for the Israeli Embassy here.

``We trust that the local government and local police will do all needed to find the criminals and bring them to court,'' she said.

Kranz said Avraham's body was being returned to Israel today.

The city attorney general's office said in a statement that Avraham had come to Mexico about eight days earlier to raise funds and was staying with friends in the Anzures area, a middle-class neighborhood not far from Chapultepec Park in western Mexico City.

Police said he was stabbed repeatedly in the face, neck and chest.

Kranz said there was speculation that the killing was the work of robbers, who might have been frustrated because the rabbi carried little money or because he did not speak Spanish.

The violence of the attack was unusual even for Mexico City, which has been plagued by rising crime in recent years.