The planned attack on a synagogue in Hagen (Germany) had a very probable “Islamist motivation”, declared Thursday the conservative Armin Laschet, candidate for the succession of Angela Merkel.
“It seems that before the start of Yom Kippur (the main Jewish holiday), an Islamist-motivated attack could have been avoided,” said the candidate on the sidelines of a trip to Bremen, about a threat of attack targeting the synagogue of Hagen of which a 16-year-old Syrian is suspected.
The German police made several arrests on Thursday, the day after a threat of an attack on a synagogue in the middle of Yom Kippur.
In total, four arrests were carried out after the Hagen synagogue (west) was the subject of very tight surveillance by the police on Wednesday evening due to a threat of attack. The investigation “led to the identification and arrest of a 16-year-old man from Hagen,” local police said late Thursday morning.
“There was a danger of an attack on the synagogue in Hagen,” confirmed Herbert Reul, the regional Minister of the Interior. The police force “probably prevented” him. The 16-year-old is believed to be a Syrian, according to Spiegel and Bild media. He was reportedly arrested Thursday morning at Hagen station, along with three of his relatives at their home.
The German authorities have been alerted by a foreign intelligence service, according to these media. The young Syrian would have announced an imminent attack on a discussion forum monitored by this service. The attack was likely to be carried out Wednesday evening using homemade explosives.
No bomb found
On Wednesday evening, the celebration of Yom Kippur in this synagogue in Hagen, a city of 180,000 inhabitants located in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, was abruptly canceled. The police had deployed as early as Wednesday evening around the religious building several heavily armed men and dogs to find possible explosives. However, no bomb was discovered in or near the scene, local police said Thursday morning.
Access to the streets around the synagogue had also been blocked in connection with “a possible dangerous situation in relation to a Jewish institution”, the synagogue of Hagen, according to the police.
This case comes almost two years after an attack on the synagogue in Halle, again during Yom Kippur. The author, a right-wing extremist, had tried to enter the synagogue, but failed to do so, to shoot the worshipers there. However, he had killed two people in the street and in a snack bar before being arrested. He has since been sentenced to life in prison for the attack.
Double jihadist and right-wing extremist threat
Anti-Semitic crimes and offenses have steadily increased in Germany in recent years, with 2,032 offenses recorded in 2019, 13% more than the previous year.
Germany has faced in recent years a dual jihadist and right-wing extremist threat, the latter having been elevated to the number one risk rank after several terrorist attacks or foiled attacks. The number of crimes committed by right-wing extremists has indeed jumped in 2020 to its highest level since the post-WWII era.
But the jihadist threat also remains significant, the far-right AfD party, which entered parliament in 2017, attributing it to the reception of a million Syrian and Iraqi refugees in 2015 and 2016. The number of Islamists considered to be dangerous in Germany increased sharply between 2015 and 2018, according to the security services.
In total, around 23 attacks have been foiled since 2000, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced.