French police confirmed that a man arrested in connection with what
was first believed to be an anti-Semitic arson attack on a Jewish social
center a week ago was a Jewish man who had worked there.
Police headquarters refused to identify the man taken into custody in
connection with the August 22 attack, but investigators said the man had
worked on occasion as a guard at the center, but that management wanted to
Investigators suggested that "resentment" over the loss of his job could
have motivated the suspect, in his 50s, to torch the eastern Paris center
out of revenge, but that explanation was not confirmed.
The man -- who was placed in preventive detention for up to 48 hours -- was
"more or less homeless" and "mentally unstable", the sources said.
On August 22, the Jewish center was gutted in a massive blaze, and
swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans like "The world would be pure if there
were no more Jews" were scrawled inside.
The incident led the French government to declare war on racism and
prompted a snap visit to Paris by Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom,
who urged tougher punishment in France for the perpetrators of anti-Semitic
Police said the fire could have been an "inside job", but were still
looking into several theories.
The police statements seemed to confirm a report in Le Figaro newspaper on
Monday, which said investigators were no longer treating the fire as an
anti-Semitic attack, but were looking for a mentally unstable Jewish man.
Last month, a 23-year-old woman who claimed she had been the victim of a
vicious anti-Semitic assault later admitted she had made up the entire
incident, and was given a four-month suspended sentence for lying about it