Ilan Halimi: Tortured and killed in Paris because “the Jews have money”

February 23, 2006


1. Ilan Halimi: Seduced to his murder
2. “Barbarian gang” convinced that “the Jews have money”
3. French media neglect to mention the victim was Jewish
4. The Observer also fails to mention the victim was Jewish
5. Center-right press more likely to report anti-Semitism
6. “I Killed my Jew, I will go to paradise”
7. Gang leader caught today
8. “The fact that Ilan was Jewish… caused his abductors to behave as Islamists”
9. 5,000 people demonstrate in Paris
10. Norway’s largest newspaper compares Israeli security barrier to Auschwitz
11. Anti-Semitic slogans painted on former concentration camp in Serbia
12. Iranian President blames “Zionists” for destruction of Samarra Shrine’s golden dome
13. “Jews claim police hid killers’ motive to appease ghetto” (The Times, Feb. 22, 2006)
14. “A young man was kidnapped and tortured to death” (Le Figaro, Feb. 15, 2006)
15. “Jewish anger at ‘racist’ murder by kidnap gang” (The Independent, Feb. 21, 2006)
16. “Torturers’ Iraq link” (The Observer, Feb. 19, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


On January 21, 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23-year old Jewish store clerk in Paris, was seduced into going out on a date by a good-looking young woman who walked into the cell (mobile) phone store where he worked.

The woman had been sent as bait in order to lure Halimi to a spot from where he could be kidnapped. She had been sent by a gang named “The Barbarians,” made up of childhood friends who grew up in Bagneux, a suburb south of Paris. The gang, which includes Muslim radicals, overpowered Halimi and took him to an apartment in Bagneux.

Over the next three weeks they contacted Halimi’s family and demanded a ransom of up to 500,000 Euros ($595,000). On Monday last week (February 13), Halimi was found tied naked to a tree, handcuffed and gagged, with severe burns and torture marks and cuts all over his body.

He died of his wounds as he was taken to hospital. The French judicial police leading the investigation said the gang “kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut him and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight. It was one of the cruelest killings I have ever seen.”


Rafi Halimi, Ilan’s uncle, told the media that “when we said we didn’t have 500,000 euros to give them they told us to go to the synagogue and get it.” “The gang phoned the family on several occasions and made them listen to the recitation of verses from the Koran, while Ilan’s tortured screams could be heard in the background.”

The police found literature linking the suspects to extremist Muslim causes and also discovered that the gang had already tried to kidnap four other Jews in recent weeks.

Yet, last week the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told French journalists that “no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action”.

Following an outcry late last week by French Jews, the police have now admitted that there was an anti-Semitic component to this torture and murder.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the French National Assembly that the “Barbarian gang” was after money because “they were convinced that ‘the Jews have money.’”


For days last week, when reports of the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Hariri were published in Le Figaro (see article below), Libération and Le Monde, there was no mention of the racist aspect of this crime. Only French Jewish media mentioned it.

Following protests, French newspapers have now said that this was an anti-Semitic crime. Yet reports highlight some of the prejudice within the French police. One officer is quoted by the French newspaper Libération as saying: “Ce qui fait agir, ce n’est pas une raison raciale ou religieuse. Dans leur tête, juif égale argent, explique ainsi un enquêteur.” (“What we’re dealing with doesn’t have any racist or [anti-Semitic] motive. It’s just that to their way of thinking, Jew equals money, explained one of the crime investigators.”)

It should be pointed out that Ilan Hariri was a shop assistant from a simple family who did not have money.


In London, The Observer, the Sunday affiliate newspaper of The Guardian, in its report on the kidnapping and murder also failed to mention that the victim was Jewish. (See article below.) It is very unlikely that The Guardian of The Observer would report on an almost certain racial attack on a black or Asian Muslim without mentioning that it was a racial attack, or who the perpetrators and victim were. This was undoubtedly clear to The Observer at the time of publication as illustrated by the fact that Ha’aretz, for example, had already published an article highlighting this.

The Observer article says that the gang was composed of “jobless youths” yet there is no mention of the fact that Ilan Halimi was also a “youth”. In fact he was younger than many of the gang. As a result it may appear to some readers of the Observer that the victim (a store clerk) was privileged and the criminals were not. (In fact one of the gang, it turns out, was in on-the-job training in the IT service of a French TV station.)

Also in London, The Independent (article attached below) claims that “most of the other victims, or intended victims, were not Jewish”. This is in contrast to virtually every other news report this week on the murder, and to the police’s findings. The Independent’s report also put the emphasis in its headline on “Jewish anger” rather than on the innocence of the victim.

But this is not surprising. Like the Guardian, The Independent (of which Robert Fisk is the chief Middle East correspondent) is supposedly a liberal and tolerant paper, but in fact has a long record of whipping up hatred against Israel.

Today, perhaps realizing they have gone too far in denying the seriousness of the increase in anti-Semitism, The Independent carries a comment piece by John Lichfield on the murder titled “This anti-Semitic attack is terrifying”. Lichfield comments on the “‘new’ anti-Semitism: the gut hatred of Jews, not on the far right, but among the deprived, multiracial youth of the banlieues, the poor suburbs which surround French cities.”


While so-called liberal newspapers like The Independent and The Guardian downplay anti-Semitism, the center-right Times (of London), which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, does not shy away from the glaring anti-Semitic nature of this murder in its news report, titled “Jews claim police hid killers’ motive to appease ghetto.” (Attached below.)

The Times notes: Radio Shalom, a station in Paris, said that Halimi had “been made to pay for the (Danish) cartoons of Muhammad and Abu Ghraib”, the prison where US forces tortured Iraqi captives.

The leading Spanish daily, El Pais, which in recent years has toyed with anti-Semitism and also equated Ariel Sharon and Hitler (see Middle Beast), did take seriously the fact that this was a racially-motivated murder.

A Madrid-based correspondent on this email list writes: “The murder of the Jewish boy which was the main story on the back page of El Pais yesterday. The story put the emphasis on the fact that it was a Jewish boy in all probability tortured and murdered on racial grounds by a group that has attempted to murder a number of people recently, the majority of whom were Jewish.”

For the past week, the American media have been almost silent on this story; an exception was The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. And The New York Times finally reported today “French Officials Now Say Killing of Jew Was in Part a Hate Crime”.


Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal from Paris, Nidra Poller, says: “One of the most troubling aspects of this affair is the probable involvement of relatives and neighbors, beyond the immediate circle of the gang, who were told about the Jewish hostage and dropped in to participate in the torture.”

She also writes: “The murder of Ilan Halimi invites comparison with the November 2003 killing of a Jewish disc jockey, Sébastien Selam. His Muslim neighbor, Adel, slit his throat, nearly decapitating him, and gouged out his eyes with a carving fork in his building’s underground parking garage. Adel came upstairs with bloodied hands and told his mother, ‘I killed my Jew, I will go to paradise.’”

“In the two years before his murder, the Selam family was repeatedly harassed for being Jewish. The murderer, who admits his guilt, was placed in a psychiatric hospital, and may be released soon. The initial response to the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi suggested a comparably selective ignorance.”


The Jerusalem Post reports that Youssef Fofana, the leader of the (supposedly impoverished) gang, was detained this morning in the Ivory Coast, to where he had fled. Fofana is expected to be extradited back to France within a week.

French police have now arrested most of the other gang members responsible for the murder of Ilan Halimi, including the woman who lured Halimi to his fate.

The method of using a good-looking woman to lure a kidnap victim closely mirrors the plot of a 1990s French film “L’Appat” (The Bait). According to the Libération newspaper, the gang was inspired by the film which had itself been inspired by a press report.


The French judge presiding over the case of the kidnapping and murder has said that “aggravated anti-Semitism is present in the case of the kidnapping, imprisonment and torturous murder of young Ilan Halimi.”

Claude Barouch, President of the French Jewish organization, UPJF, said that an atmosphere of demonization of Israel in the French media, and a lack of reaction by political leaders contributed to create a climate that led some to believe they can do what they want to Jews without facing any serious consequences. (For more on this, see J’accuse.)

Sami Gazlan, who is responsible for security in the Jewish community, said the gang’s behavior suggested that the motive behind the kidnapping was violence for its own sake, particularly against Jews. “Why didn’t they release him when the realized the family couldn’t pay ransom?” he asked.

Jack Rosen, chairman of the New York-based American Jewish Congress issued a statement saying “we are shocked that in the 21st century, this horrific torture and murder of a Jew because he is a Jew could take place in a Western democracy.”

One other intended victim of the gang, a 50-year-old Jewish man identified as Michael, told how he had been lured to an estate and knocked out with a blow to the head from a pistol butt. He had been saved after residents called police, but spent a week in hospital. According to unconfirmed reports in the Jewish community of Paris, at least one family has recently paid a ransom for the release of a kidnapped child.


This past Sunday approximately 5,000 people marched in Paris, from Republic Square to Nation Square, in memory of Ilan Halimi. This peaceful protest is in stark contrast with recent protests by others over cartoons. (For more on this, see Drawing a line under hypocrisy.)

Other Jewish-owned shops closed in the 11th Arondissement on Friday, as a gesture of sympathy for Halimi’s family, and according to press reports, as a “protest against rising anti-Semitism.”

France is home to Western Europe’s largest Jewish community. With rising anti-Semitism, stoked by anti-Israel hate in the French media, over 10,000 French Jews have moved to Israel since 2000. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday that 27 percent more French Jews immigrated last year in comparison to 2004. Political analysts attributed the phenomenon to fears of rising anti-Semitism in France. Other French Jews have sought asylum in Canada, Flordia and New York.


A correspondent in Norway writes: “Norway’s largest newspaper, VG, which has a higher circulation than Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, on Tuesday [two days ago] printed a photo showing the (Israeli) security barrier with the inscription ‘Arbeit macht frei,’ the same as on the gates to the Auschwitz extermination camp. At the same time VG have said they will not print the Danish Mohammed cartoons because this could ‘inflame the situation.’”


Several anti-Semitic inscriptions have been found on the walls of a WW2 concentration camp in Serbia. Among the slogans were “The Holocaust is a Jewish myth,” “Serbia for the Serbs” and “work brings freedom.” It is thought that this graffiti was aimed to coincide with the 64th anniversary of the massacre of 1100 Jews, Serbs and Roma (Gypsies) at the camp.


Speaking to a crowd of thousands in southwestern Iran this morning, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the blowing up of the Askariya mosque dome in Samarra in Iraq yesterday was the work of “Zionists.” The speech was also broadcast on state television.

Separately, the influential Sunni cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian who lives in Qatar, and is a close ally of London mayor Ken Livingstone, said today of the attack yesterday: “No one benefits from such acts other than the lurking Zionist enemy. ” (For more on al-Qaradawi, see Portraying the prophet from Persian art to South Park.)

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

I attach four articles below.

-- Tom Gross



Jews claim police hid killers’ motive to appease ghetto
By Charles Bremner
The Times (of London)
February 22, 2006

The torture and murder of a young Jewish man in Paris triggered outrage among Jewish leaders yesterday as the Government sought to prevent the affair from inflaming emotions in the Muslim-dominated housing estates of France.

Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, and his ministers promised that justice would be done after the parents of Ilan Halimi, 23, who was held captive for three weeks on an immigrant estate, accused the police of playing down the anti-Semitic motives of his kidnappers.

Voicing the anger felt among the Jewish population, Radio Shalom, a station in Paris, said that M Halimi had “been made to pay for the (Danish) cartoons of Muhammad and Abu Ghraib”, the prison where US forces tortured Iraqi captives.

M Halimi, who worked in a telephone shop, died shortly after being found ten days ago naked and bound on a suburban roadside. Police denied any racial aspect in the kidnapping and ransom demands, but on Monday investigators added racial hatred to the kidnapping and murder charges that six men and a woman in police custody are facing.

The kidnappers are alleged to have referred to M Halimi’s Jewish background in their telephone and e-mail demands to the family for ransom, and one of the young torturers was reported by accomplices to have stubbed out a cigarette on M Halimi’s forehead while voicing his hatred for Jews.

The seven are alleged to be part of a loose gang of young estate-dwellers who had already made six unsuccessful kidnap attempts against residents of Paris. Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister, told Parliament yesterday that four out of the six were Jewish.

Two officers flew yesterday to Ivory Coast in pursuit of Yussef Fofana, 25, the alleged ring-leader who calls himself “Brain of the Barbarians”, who flew out of Paris after M Halimi was found. The gang had used women to entrap their victims by chatting them up and arranging dates with them.

One intended victim, a 50-year-old Jewish man identified as Michael, told how he had been lured to an estate and knocked out with a blow to the head from a pistol butt. He had been saved after residents called police, but spent a week in hospital. According to unconfirmed reports in the Jewish community of Paris, at least one family has recently paid a ransom for the release of a kidnapped child.

As M Sarkozy visited M Halimi’s parents yesterday, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre sent him a message saying: “These acts are a test for Europe. Jihadi violence, hatred and anti-Semitism must be prevented from taking root in French soil.”

Ruth Halimi said that her son might still be alive had the police not evaded the nature of his kidnapping as they were negotiating over ransom.

“We told the police that there had been at least three other attempted abductions of young Jews, but they persisted in considering the motives purely criminal because they are afraid of reviving a clash with the Muslims,” she said.

Police said that the gang appeared to have been driven by greed and the crude racial stereotypes that prevailed on the estates. Feuj, slang for Jew, is a common insult in the ghetto-like estates. The group had been influenced by television, particularly the Abu Ghraib torture pictures, officers said.

In Parliament, M Sarkozy played down the kidnapping as a religious or political act. “These thugs acted first of all out of sordid criminal motives in a search for money, but they were convinced that ‘Jews have money’,” he said.

M de Villepin was reported yesterday to have reprimanded Pascal Clément, the Justice Minister, for quoting one of the accused kidnappers as saying M Halimi had been abducted “because he was Jewish, and Jews are rich”. His discretion reflects official fear of stirring the anger that drove thousands of young men from Muslim-dominated estates to a frenzy of fire-bombing last autumn.

France has Europe’s biggest Muslim and biggest Jewish populations. The actions of the gang contrast with a big drop in reported anti-Semitic acts in France over the past year.



[TG adds: The article below avoids saying that the victim was Jewish.]

A young man was kidnapped and tortured to death
By Christophe Cornevin
Le Figaro
February 15, 2006

“Ilan, 23 years old, fell victim to an organized gang, enticed by a customer in a cell phone shop in Paris. Left for dead by his torturers, who had handcuffed and gagged him, he died on his way to the hospital.”

“The discovery Monday afternoon of the naked body of Ilan, 23 years-old, near the railroad tracks at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (Essonne) is the tragic epilogue of a long police stake out. The victim had been tortured, 80% of his body was covered with bruises, deep cuts, and burns from an inflammable fluid. The young man, handcuffed and gagged, left for dead by his torturers, died on his way to the hospital.

“For three weeks the Parisian criminal brigade, with the help of a hundred detectives, had been tracking a mysterious organized gang of kidnappers who entice their victims with pretty young ladies. The investigation, which began when the young man was kidnapped on January 20, was conducted with utter discretion. For the officers of the Quai des Orfèvres, the macabre discovery marks a failure.

“On 17 January, a young woman in her twenties came into the cell phone shop on Boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement of Paris where Ilan worked as a salesman.

She engaged him in conversation and they exchanged cell phone numbers. They made a date for the evening of the 20th, near Sceaux (Hauts de Seine). That is the last time Ilan was heard from.

“In the following days the kidnappers contacted Ilan’s father, and a friend of Ilan by e-mail three times. They sent photos of the hostage, his mouth and eyes taped shut, holding a newspaper to certify the date.

“Police investigators worked through the Net and found the originating electronic addresses, but the messages had been sent from cybercafés in Paris and the banlieue. The cybercafés were placed under surveillance for weeks by the Anti-gang Brigade and the Repression of banditism Brigade... in vain. Technical searches traced back through different servers to electronic mailboxes in the Congo and Ivory Coast.

“We are lost in conjectures”

“On other occasions a mysterious correspondent with a North African or African accent phoned and sent text messages to Ilan’s father demanding a ransom. ‘But, ’ explained the public prosecutor Jean Claude Marin, ‘the kidnappers were totally inconsistent.’

“The ransom demand went from 430,000 euros to 100,000 euros. ‘They changed the pickup point at the last minute. They had us running around in circles,’ admits a policeman. ‘One day it was Place du Châtelet, the next day Brussels, then in some other country via Western Union. At first we thought they were toying with us like the blackmailers of the AZF terrorist group...’

“The ‘Crim’ discovered that the gang wasn’t on its first try. In mid-January, using the same method of enticement this time with a European type blond young woman, they had contacted another cell phone salesman in a shop on boulevard Voltaire. But he didn’t fall into the trap. Early in December in Créteil (Val de Marne) a brunette who said she was a singer approached a young man who was a record producer. There too they traded phone numbers. But the young man’s father was suspicious, so he went to the trysting place. He was surprised by three strangers who hit him, handcuffed him, and led him into an underground parking lot. But his assailants were scared away by witnesses.

“François Jaspart, chief of the Parisian PJ explained yesterday: “For now, we are trying to find out exactly how many people the gang has hit on, and we’ll try to find an eventual connection,” according to our information, the men who were accosted frequented a luxurious striptease joint in the 8th arrondissement [this is apparently a false information]. “We are lost in conjectures,” admitted Jean-Claude Marin, adding that the last contact with the hostage takers dated to last Thursday. A phone number for witnesses (01 45 44 31 82) has been set up since yesterday. The kidnappers, who are now being sought for ‘kidnapping, sequestration in organized gang, acts of torture and barbarism,’ risk life imprisonment.”



Jewish anger at ‘racist’ murder by kidnap gang
By John Lichfield
The Independent
February 21, 2006

Tempers are reaching boiling point in the French Jewish community after the torture and murder of a young Jewish man by a suburban gang calling itself “the barbarians”.

Police had said that the gang kidnapped Ilan Halimi, 23 using a beautiful, young, blonde woman as bait to extort money from his family. However, the victim’s family and many other Parisian Jews are convinced the crime was, at least partially, racially motivated.

Last night the Justice Minister, Pascal Clement, confirmed that investigators had alleged “aggravated circumstances of anti-Semitism”. He said that one suspect had indicated M. Halimi was selected “because he was Jewish and because a Jew was rich”. He added: “That is an aggravating circumstance, it means that the resonance is no longer the same.”

A Parisian member of parliament, Claude Goasguen, said yesterday the city could face “extremely serious intra-community violence” unless the authorities abandoned their “persistent silence on the real motives for this murder”.

At the weekend, a mainly peaceful protest march by Parisian Jews was marred by a number of violent actions by radical young Jewish men. A black man was beaten up, allegedly for “smiling” at the protest. An Arab-run grocery was attacked. A motorist who was caught up in the march was assaulted and had to be rescued by demonstration marshals.

Tracts were handed out by Jewish radical groups which claimed that Ilan Halimi, a mobile telephone salesman, was a victim of “Islamo-fascism”.

Fifteen people have been arrested in connection with M. Halimi’s abduction and death. Three were placed under formal investigation at the weekend, including Audrey Lorleach, 24, who is accused of picking up the young man at his shop and leading him into a trap.

Seven other alleged members of the gang were formally accused of kidnapping, murder and lesser crimes after appearing before an investigating magistrate yesterday afternoon.

The alleged ring-leader of the kidnap gang, Youssouf “Mohammed” Fafana, 25, who called himself (in English) the “brain of the barbarians” is still on the run. Police have branded him as “the most wanted man in France”.

M. Fafana is a convicted petty criminal of Côte d’Ivoirian origin. French investigators say that the gang has been involved in half a dozen other kidnappings and attempted kidnappings. Most of the other victims, or intended victims, were not Jewish. Officially, therefore, police insist that there is no reason to suspect that the torture and murder of M. Halimi were racially motivated.

The young man disappeared on 21 January after making a date to meet Mme Lorleach, whom he had met in his mobile telephone shop in Paris. His family said that they had received a series of ransom demands via e-mail, text message and telephone, demanding a ransom of ¤450,000 (£308,000), which they were unable to raise.

He was discovered last Monday, three weeks later, in the southern suburbs of Paris, naked, gagged and handcuffed. He died soon afterwards from multiple injuries and burns.

His family insists that he was the victim of an “anti-Semitic crime”. During telephone calls demanding money, they said, gang members read out verses of the Koran. Even if money were the original motive for the abduction, they said, they believe that M. Halimi was tortured and murdered because he was Jewish.

The fugitive, M. Fofana, and several other gang members, lived in a troubled housing estate at Bagneux, west of Paris. Although the self-proclaimed “brain of the barbarians” had served time in prison for petty crimes, neighbours said that they were astonished to hear that he was suspected of kidnap, torture and murder.

A local youth said: “This is a gang made up of jetsam and flotsam young people without an idea in their head, who probably didn’t realise the seriousness of what they were doing.” Another neighbour described him as “an ordinary young man jeans, trainers, hello, goodbye, that’s all.”

Some Jewish community leaders accuse the police of deliberately playing down the racial aspects of the crime to avoid inflaming religious and intra-community tensions.

The torture and murder of M. Halimi has commanded much attention in the Israeli media. One Israeli radio station said the murder proved that it was “no longer safe” for Jewish people to live in Paris. In fact, there was a steep fall in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France last year after a peak in 2004.

The representative council of Jewish institutions in France, CRIF, has called for calm but has also appealed to investigators to reveal all they know on the “motives of the assassins”.



Torturers’ Iraq link
By Jason Burke
The Observer
February 19, 2006,,1712961,00.html

Criminals who tortured and killed a young hostage, keeping him naked and hooded and burning him repeatedly before throwing him from a train, were inspired by images from Iraq, according to a French prosecutor.

Jean-Claude Martin, a senior government lawyer, said that the kidnappers, who kept their victim imprisoned for three weeks, were ‘repeating things they had seen practised elsewhere’.

Police have distributed a picture of Youssef Fofana, 26, who is the presumed head of the gang. Last week, a young woman, suspected of acting as ‘the lure’ in the murder, gave herself up. Raids then resulted in the arrest of 15 other suspects, aged between 17 and 32, in a poor suburb of Bagneux, near Paris.

The 23-year-old victim is thought to have been starved and tortured while negotiations with his family for a ransom of up to €450,000 continued. According to a police source, the violence was ‘gratuitous, extreme, spontaneous and without any limits or boundaries’.

The gang was composed of jobless youths from the suburbs around Paris which erupted in violent riots last autumn. They are believed to have made several previous attempts at kidnapping. According to the Liberation newspaper, the gang was inspired by a film which had itself been inspired by a press report.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.