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Confusion in Marseilles

March 11, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Confusion over who was responsible for an aborted bomb attack near the main synagogue in Marseilles early Tuesday morning and its motivation has become a political issue in that city which faces a heated mayoral run-off election this Sunday.

Police Chief Bernard Petault was reported by local newspapers today to have accused “certain rightwing elements” of the bombing in which two men were killed and to have charged “a political racial involvement.” Jean-Claude Gaudin, of the rightwing RPR party who is challenging incumbent Mayor Gaston Defferre, a Socialist, hotly denied the charge.

“None of the arrested men has ever been involved with our party,” a spokesman for Gaudin said today. Defferre, who is also France’s Minister of Interior, is standing by his original assertion that the bombing was an attempted attack on the synagogue by neo-Nazi or other terrorists. The opposition, on the other hand, supports the theory that the bombing was an incident of gang warfare and its occurrence near the synagogue was coincidental.

Police arrested five suspects for questioning yesterday and are seeking others. All reportedly have criminal records. The two dead men, burned alive when the bomb exploded in their car as they tried to evade police patrols near the synagogue, were identified as known criminals.

Police identified them as Daniel Scotti who recently completed a nine-year prison term for armed robbery, and Jean Chichin, also an ex-convict with a long criminal record. Yesterday their names were given as Gerard Scotti and Georges Sichat. The confusion was believed due to forged identity cards found at the scene of the explosion.

Police Chief Petault was quoted by the press today as saying, “The men who acted were in close relations with rightwing politicians in the Province of Vaucluse (near Marseilles) and in Marseilles itself. All those arrested or wanted have links with rightwing circles.” Other police sources suggested today that the bombing attempt was aimed at the synagogue by criminals who had “some sort of deal.”

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