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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 July, 2004, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Swastika attack on French mother
Desecrated tombstone at Niederhaslach cemetery
The assault follows a rise in anti-Semitic attacks
French politicians have reacted with horror to an anti-Semitic attack on a woman and her baby on a train.

A gang of young men cut her hair, slashed her clothes and drew swastikas on her body, before overturning the pram in which her infant was lying.

Other passengers failed to intervene as the six men attacked the woman, whom they mistook for a Jew.

President Jacques Chirac condemned the "shameful act", which came the day after he vowed a crackdown on racism.

He demanded that "everything be done to catch the perpetrators... and that they are judged and sentenced with all severity".

Surrounded

The 23-year-old woman was on a train just north of Paris on Friday morning, with her 13-month-old baby.

Six men - described by French media as of North African appearance - surrounded her and rifled through her bag.

According to police, they found papers referring to the wealthy 16th district of the capital, and said: "There are only Jews in the 16th."

Police said the woman was not Jewish and no longer lived in the district.

The attackers reportedly shoved the woman, used a knife to cut her hair and her shirt open, and drew swastikas on her stomach with a marker pen.

The baby was apparently tipped out of its pram in the melee.

Passengers criticised

Politicians from all sides condemned the attack.

Jean-Paul Huchon, president of the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris, despaired of the lack of reaction from fellow passengers.

He recalled the French deportation of Jewish children during German occupation in World War II, saying: "And now, we let people be attacked like this without reacting, without doing anything."

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin ordered police to find the culprits "as quickly as possible".

On Thursday, President Chirac complained of a spate of racist and anti-Semitic attacks, including the desecration of Jewish and Muslim graves.

Commentators have linked increasing Muslim-Jewish tension to the continuing conflict in the Middle East.

A few days previously, a report warned that poor suburban areas of French cities were becoming ethnic "ghettoes", where radical Islam was taking root.


SEE ALSO:
France 'forming ethnic ghettoes'
06 Jul 04  |  Europe
Racist vandals strike in France
14 Jun 04  |  Europe
Cemetery desecrated in France
03 May 04  |  Europe
French mosque fires draw protest
07 Mar 04  |  Europe


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