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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 18:58 GMT
French protest for murdered Jew
French marchers in Paris with a picture of Ilan Halimi

Tens of thousands of people have marched through Paris to protest against racism and anti-Semitism after the kidnap and murder of a young Jew.

Ilan Halimi, 23, was found naked with horrific injuries, three weeks after he was kidnapped by an extortion gang.

Marchers on Sunday lit candles and released white balloons in his memory.

The suspected gang leader has been arrested in Ivory Coast. He allegedly said Halimi was picked because he was a Jew, and therefore presumed to be rich.

Among those at Sunday's rally were members of the government and the opposition, Jewish and anti-racism campaigners, and leaders of the Jewish and other religious communities.

Roger Cukierman, the head of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France said: "It's important for French society to realise that little anti-Semitic and racist prejudices can have terrible consequences."

They [abductors] believed... 'that Jews have money'. That's called anti-Semitism
Nicolas Sarkozy
Interior Minister

France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was at Sunday's march, said earlier in the week that greed was the main motive.

"But they believed, and I quote, 'that Jews have money'," he said. "That's called anti-Semitism."

Ransom demands

France has requested the extradition of Youssef Fofana, 25, a French citizen of Ivorian origin, from Ivory Coast.

A convicted petty criminal, he is alleged to have left France soon after Halimi was found.

Murder and kidnap suspect Youssef Fofana in custody in Ivory Coast
Youssef Fofana has been taken into custody in Ivory Coast

He allegedly admitted the kidnap, but denied murder.

Halimi died on his way to hospital after being found on 13 February by a railway line, bound and gagged with serious burns and stab injuries.

After apparently being lured into a trap by a young woman, he had been held for three weeks while his abductors sent ransom demands to his family.

French police say the gang had tried to trap several men before succeeding with Halimi.

Following a tip-off by one of the women used as "bait", police have arrested 17 people.

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

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