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French Leaders Attend Memorial Service for Jewish Man


French President Jacques Chirac and other top government officials attended a memorial service Thursday for a young Jewish man who was brutally killed in an apparently anti-Semitic attack. French Jews say they are fearful of more attacks.

A dense crowd struggled to get into the main Victory Synagogue in Paris on a chilly Thursday night, where memorial services for Ilan Halimi were being held. Halimi was brutally tortured for three weeks, before he was dumped, naked and dying, beside a railway track outside Paris. He died on the way to the hospital.

One elderly Jewish lady standing in line said she did not feel insecure, despite the brutal attack.

She says her husband survived the Holocaust. We can not accept things like this again, she said.

Nearby, a man who identified himself only as Maurice admitted he is uneasy about showing the trappings of his religion in public.

"It is rather delicate being a Jew today," Maurice said. "It is delicate to show your Judaism. As time goes on, things only get worse."

France was hit by a spree of anti-Semitic acts a few years ago, but the number of reported attacks has been steadily dropping in recent months. Still, a number of Jews interviewed say that, despite the official statistics, they doubt the level of violence against Jews here has really dropped.

Thirteen people, most members of a suburban gang called The Barbarians have so far been indicted in connection with Halimi's killing. The suspected gang leader, Youssouf Fofana, is currently being held by police in Ivory Coast, where he fled. French authorities say they hope he will be returned to France shortly.

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