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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 06:09 GMT
French 'anti-Jew gang chief' held
Police outside a housing estate when Ilan Halimi is believed to have been held
Halimi is believed to have been held on a housing estate
The suspected head of an anti-Semitic gang which kidnapped, tortured and killed a young French Jew near Paris has been arrested in Ivory Coast.

Youssouf Fofana, 26, is in the custody of French police who went to Ivory Coast to question him.

The French authorities had issued an international warrant for his arrest after he had left the country.

Victim Ilan Halimi died after being found naked, bound and gagged in a crime that shocked France.

The 23-year-old man had been held for ransom for three weeks.

He was dumped near the Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois train station near Paris on 13 February, and found lying in agony with horrific injuries to his body. He died on the way to hospital.

French ministers believe he may have been a victim of anti-Semitism.

'Brains of the barbarians'

President Jacques Chirac is expected to lead mourners at a memorial service for Mr Halimi in Paris later on Thursday.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Jews, marched in the capital on Sunday to condemn the killing.

Mr Fofana, who is of Ivorian origin, is believed to have fled France before police made several arrests last week.

Mr Halimi's family were sent ransom demands by e-mail and text messages from the kidnap gang, whose leader called himself "brains of the barbarians".

Prosecutors initially ruled out anti-Semitism, saying the gang - believed to be behind six other botched kidnappings - were unemployed and motivated by money.

But Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told a meeting of Jewish community leaders on Monday that the judge handling the case was investigating leads pointing to an anti-Semitic attack.

"We will do everything we can to arrest the authors of this barbarous crime and bring them to justice," he added.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: France
20 Dec 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: France
22 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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