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Two Men Arrested for Looting, Desecrating Synagogue in Algiers

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Algiers police said today that two men have been arrested and remanded in custody on charges of breaking into that city’s last remaining synagogue last month and looting, desecrating and damaging the house of prayer. None of the looted objects has been recovered.

The police investigation is apparently continuing into the crime which occurred on Jan. 21 but was not discovered until the following day, a Sabbath. According to Algiers Rabbi Gilbert Seror, the theives made off with silver candle sticks, silk curtains from the Tabernacle and every other object of value. Torah scrolls and prayer books were found torn to shreds.

The police were alerted by Marcel Said, president of the Jewish community. He also informed the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the break-in which is a criminal offense under Algerian law. The French Embassy was informed as well because many members of the Jewish community are French nationals.

Algiers police said they were under strict orders to break the case and arrest all suspects. They said the District Attorney told them “It is intolerable that such acts could occur in our city.” But Jewish sources here said the incident was not surprising in view of the anti-Jewish climate they say prevails in Algiers.

According to these sources, passers-by often throw rocks at Jewish beggars seeking alms near the synagogue gate. There are only about 350 Jews left in Algiers and 1000 in the rest of the country. They are mainly elderly people who decided to remain when most Algerian Jews moved en-masse to France.

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