PARIS (AP) — An escapee from a psychiatric institution slashed a rabbi and his son with a box-cutter on Tuesday, prompting witnesses to tackle and subdue the attacker after a chase through a Paris synagogue, officials said.
The rabbi, who is in his late 40s, was recovering from surgery for a neck injury and his 18-year-old son sustained lesser injuries in the attack north of a touristic shopping area near Paris' gilded Opera Garnier, according to police and judicial officials and Richard Prasquier, who heads CRIF, France's largest umbrella organization of Jewish groups.
The assailant was of Iranian origin, and an official investigation was underway to determine a possible motive, Prasquier said. The attacker, now in police custody, had escaped from a psychiatric hospital near southeastern Lyon last week, said a police official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, said the two victims had been wearing Jewish skullcaps, and the attacker was detained after a chase through the synagogue. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, said in a statement that the assailant screamed "Allah-u-Akbar" — or "God is great" — during the attack.
France is home to the largest Jewish community in Western Europe, at some 500,000 people, which has faced sporadic bouts of anti-Semitism over the years. In one of the country's most wrenching episodes in recent years, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi were shot and killed by a radical Islamic militant in March last year in the southwestern city of Toulouse.
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