France identifies suspect in 1980 synagogue bombing

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PARIS, Oct 11 (Reuters) French officials are tracking a man of Palestinian origin living in Canada suspected of a bomb attack outside a Paris synagogue in 1980 that killed four passers-by, a magistrate said today.

The magistrate, who declined to be identified, confirmed a report in the daily Le Figaro that a suspect had been identified on the basis of information provided by German intelligence services, but declined to provide further details.

A so-called ''international rogatory commission'', an order authorising foreign police to conduct inquiries into a French case, was issued last month requesting help from the United States where the suspect lived for many years, Le Figaro said.

The attack outside the synagogue in the rue Copernic in Paris on October 3, 1980 also wounded 20 passers-by and could have been even worse if it had occured a few minutes later when a crowd of worshippers left the building.

French investigators have never closed the inquiry and had always hoped to make progress, said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, formerly France's top anti-terrorism magistrate who was previously in charge of the case.

''In this area, more than in any other, time doesn't necessarily hurt an investigation,'' he told Reuters.

''There are cases which are kept open because there are possibilities, prospects of starting up again. Given the seriousness of the case, we thought it was absolutely necessary not to shut it down,'' he said.

The attack on the synagogue, which shattered cars and left shards of wreckage in the wealthy 16th district street, shocked France and prompted a mass protest against anti-Semitism with 200,000 people marching in Paris to denounce the attack.

But the then-prime minister Raymond Barre also sparked outrage by a comment that ''innocent French people'' had been killed in the attack.

Le Figaro said the suspect, with double Lebanese and Canadian nationality was a member of a small Palestinian militant group during the 1970s called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Special Operations.

Reuters AE GC1652

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