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French teenagers charged in attack on Jewish girl

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January 9, 2009 10:00 AM EST | AP


PARIS — A juvenile court judge filed preliminary charges against four French teenagers accused of attacking a Jewish girl, a judicial official said Friday, amid tensions around Europe over the fighting in Gaza.

Three of the four teenagers are accused of violence with a religious or ethnic motive, and the fourth is accused of failing to prevent a crime, the official said. The official was not authorized to be named because the investigation is ongoing.

The four defendants _ aged between 13 and 15 _ are not in custody but are under judicial supervision. Under French law, preliminary charges allow for further investigation before a magistrate determines whether to send the case to trial.

The teenagers are accused of making anti-Semitic insults toward the 14-year-old girl, pushing her to the ground and kicking her as she was leaving school in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel.

The girl was lightly injured in the attack.

Investigators suspect the attackers used the Israeli offensive in Gaza as a pretext, the judicial official said.

France has Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities and a history of anti-Semitic violence flaring when tensions in the Middle East are high.

Around Europe, several attacks have been reported against Jews and synagogues in France, Sweden and Britain since Israel began its offensive on Dec. 27 against Hamas militants in Gaza. More than 700 people have been killed in the campaign, aimed at halting years of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled territory.

Anti-Semitic slogans were scrawled on the ground and walls of a public primary school in Nice in the South of France on Thursday, school officials said.

Assistant principal Anna Mari said the motive for the vandalism was unclear, but that the school had also been targeted a year ago after an outburst of violence in the Middle East.