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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Schroeder urges Tunisia blast inquiry
Inside La Ghriba synagogue
The blast blackened the white walls of the synagogue
Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called for an investigation to settle whether an explosion outside a Tunisian synagogue was a deliberate attack.

The death toll from the blast has risen to 15, 10 of whom were German tourists visiting La Ghriba Jewish shrine on the resort island of Djerba.

There are signs which speak in favour of an attack, but also information which makes you think the opposite

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder

There remains disagreement over whether the explosion of the gas tanker on Thursday was an accident or a terrorist act, possibly linked to the crisis in the Middle East.

Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily said earlier that information was increasingly pointing to the attack having been planned, but on Sunday Mr Schroeder was more circumspect.

"There are signs which speak in favour of an attack, but also information from the Tunisian authorities which makes you think the opposite," Mr Schroeder said.

"If it turns out that it was a deliberate attack, then we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible and put them in jail for a long time," he said.

Middle East suspicions

German federal police officials have been sent to Tunisia to assist in the investigation of Thursday's explosion at the more than 2,000-year-old synagogue - the oldest in Africa.

Both governments want to know if the blast was a terrorist attack aimed at the synagogue rather than a coach carrying a party of German tourists which took much of the force of the explosion.

A young girl is taken to hospital after the blast
Most of the victims were tourists
Israel has already said it suspects the gas tanker blast was a terrorist attack linked to the crisis in the Middle East.

Two more German women died of their injuries on Sunday. Eight Germans had died earlier and the blast killed a Frenchman, a Tunisian tour guide and three other Tunisians.

Another 30 people, mostly Germans, were seriously hurt in the explosion.

On Saturday, Jewish men and teenagers held a solemn sabbath service amid the blackened interior of their historic synagogue.

The Jews of Djerba

Ghriba, whose foundations are said to date from 586 BC, is one of Africa's oldest synagogues and is still functioning.
Work of wonder
La Ghriba means "the one who works wonders"
There are more than 1,000 Jews on Djerba
Ancestors believed to have arrived more than 2,000 years ago
Said to have been founded after the Jewish Exodus of 556 BC
Place of pilgrimage for Sephardic Jews, second only to Jerusalem's Western Wall
Houses unique collection of Torahs

It attracts several thousand visitors for an annual spring festival.

The island of Djerba, off Tunisia's southeast coast, is a popular holiday destination.

It is also home to around 1,000 of Tunisia's 3,000 Jews.

Many Jews left mainland Tunisia for Israel following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, and more when the synagogue in the capital Tunis was burned down during the 1967 Middle East conflict.

See also:

13 Apr 02 | Middle East
Tunisia blast claims more lives
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Mystery surrounds synagogue blast
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Blast at Tunisian synagogue kills five
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tunisia
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