PARIS – French investigators said Monday they were skeptical about claims of responsibility for an arson attack on a Jewish community center by a previously unknown Islamic group.
Still, investigators said they are not ruling out any suspects in the fire early Sunday at a Jewish meeting place and soup kitchen in eastern Paris. No one was hurt.
When the smoke cleared, police found anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas scrawled in red marker. One message read, “Without the Jews, the world is happy,” while another said, “Jews get out.”
Investigators are studying a claim of responsibility by Jamaat Ansar Al-Jihad, officials close to the inquiry said on condition of anonymity. The group issued a claim of responsibility Sunday night on a Web site known for militant Islamic comment.
The message said “a group of Mujahedeen youth set fire at 4 a.m. Paris time to the Jewish synagogue in Paris in retaliation for the racist acts carried out by the Jews in France against Islam and Muslims, and acts of defiling Muslims’ cemeteries.”
The posting referred incorrectly to the community center as a synagogue. It said the blaze marked the 35th anniversary of a fire at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which gutted the southeastern wing of the holy shrine.
But investigators said they doubted the claim because they did not believe a small neighborhood community center would have drawn attention from international militant groups.
France has suffered a series of anti-Semitic attacks since 2000, coinciding with worsening tensions in the Middle East.
Some of the violence has been blamed on young French Muslims, although the large Muslim community itself is also a frequent target of racist attacks. Both Jewish and Muslim cemeteries have been desecrated in France recently, with swastikas painted across headstones.