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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Tunisia blast claims more lives
A member of Tunisia's Jewish community prays at the Ghriba synagogue on 13 April
The synagogue is an important symbol for Tunisia's Jews
The death toll from an explosion outside an ancient Jewish synagogue in southern Tunisia has risen to 13, after the death of an injured French citizen.

Two German tourists have also died from injuries sustained when a gas tanker crashed and exploded near the building on Thursday, German embassy officials said.

The explosion on the Tunisian island of Djerba was initially reported to have killed six Germans and four Tunisians.
Tunisian Tourism Minister Mondher Zenaidi (right) meets representatives from the synangogue
The Tunisian authorities are keen to damp down speculation

The German authorities have sent two investigators to the scene as the Tunisian Government continues to insist it was an accident.

Several residents of Djerba, which is where many of Tunisia's Jews live, told the AFP news agency they thought the blast was accidental.

'No speculation'

The Tunisian authorities say that a truck carrying cooking gas accidentally exploded when it crashed into a wall, but others including the Israeli Government have expressed doubts.

They claim it was a suicide attack and is linked to events in the Middle East.

The truck missed the Ghriba synagogue but exploded near a group of 30 German visitors standing outside.

Around 14 Germans injured in the blast have now been flown home for treatment.

Visiting the scene, Tunisian Tourism Minister Mondher Zenaidi said: "Until the investigation is finished, there should be no speculation."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said his government wanted the cause of the crash "cleared up beyond doubt."

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.

Since then, the Jews of Jerba have been left largely alone.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Mystery surrounds synagogue blast
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tunisia
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