PARIS – A man suspected of setting a fire that destroyed a Jewish community center in Paris last week is a Jewish former employee who was taken into police custody early Monday, a police spokesman said.
The suspect, who was described as being in his 50s, was about to be fired, a police source said, and apparently wanted to avenge himself.
No official identification of the suspect in custody or explanation of his motive has so far been provided, but Army Radio said he may have been mentally unbalanced.
The arson attack on the community center, committed on August 22, was thought to have been carried out by neo-Nazis because anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas had been scrawled on the wall of the building.
The fire provoked widespread outrage in France and prompted last week’s three-day visit to Paris by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to discuss the French campaign against anti-Semitism.
Shalom had demanded that French authorities react more harshly to anti-Semitic acts.
However, because of a number of clues, investigators had come to suspect that the fire may have been an “internal affair,” rather than a racist act.
Aug. 30, 2004