Update Hagen The police in North Rhine-Westphalia may have thwarted an attack on a synagogue in Hagen. A 16-year-old Syrian was arrested. The police did not find any explosives or weapons. The suspect denied plans to attack the synagogue. However, he confessed to having had contacts with a bomb-making expert abroad at Telegram. What is known so far.
On Wednesday, the police received a serious, specific indication that an attack could occur during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, said North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) on Thursday in Cologne. The scene of the crime, the time of the crime and the perpetrator were named, and the information also allowed conclusions to be drawn about an “Islamistically motivated threat”.
In our live blog we continuously report on the latest developments, including the press conference.
The interior minister said that the police then took security measures and made contact with the synagogue community. The Jewish community canceled a planned event at short notice. After evacuating and searching the synagogue with explosives detection dogs, the police did not find any dangerous objects in the building or in the vicinity.
“There was a risk of an attack on the synagogue in Hagen,” said Reul at the swearing-in ceremony for young police officers in Cologne on Thursday. The investigation led to the identification and arrest of a 16-year-old Syrian citizen from Hagen. At the same time, other objects in Hagen were searched.
From security sources it was said that the 16-year-old had contact with a well-known Islamist abroad and was concerned with the question of how to build a bomb. He admitted contact with a bomb-making expert via “Telegram”, but denied any plans to attack the synagogue, said a spokesman for the attorney general on Thursday evening. As the “Kölner Stadtanzeiger” reported, citing investigators, the officials found neither explosives nor weapons in the accused’s apartment.
His father and two brothers were also found during the home search and were also arrested. However, there is currently no suspicion against them, emphasized a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Düsseldorf. In the evening the three were released again.
The so-called special organizational structure (BAO) will be maintained. It was set up to ward off any imminent attack on the synagogue. The mission is still running. There may also be more searches.
The suspect’s lawyer, Ihsan Tanyolu, told WDR that he expected the youth to be released soon. In the “local time”, the lawyer said that the allegations against his client had “not yet been confirmed”. According to Tanyolus, no presentation of the suspect before a juvenile judge is planned. “You can already see that there isn’t much to it.”
Meanwhile, the investigation into the background continues. “We are now in particularly close contact with the Jewish community. People are worried, “said a police spokesman. At the same time, the protection of the church has been strengthened. The police are still present: a dpa photographer reported on several patrol cars near the synagogue and of officers who were armed with submachine guns.
“The incident brings back bad memories of the attack on Yom Kippur two years ago in Halle,” said the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, on Thursday. Schuster said: “That our community was again so endangered on the highest holiday leaves us deeply concerned.” It shows “that the increase in security measures was and is necessary in many Jewish institutions”.
After the allegedly thwarted attack, the North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) promised to clarify the situation. “The immediate danger has been averted – and we will do everything we can to clarify which networks may have been behind this attack,” said the Union Chancellor candidate in Bremen on Thursday. Everything is done to guarantee the safety of Jewish life.
The highest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, is always an occasion for attacks, such as in Halle in October 2019, where a right-wing extremist tried to carry out an attack on the synagogue, failed at the door and then killed two people on the street and in a kebab shop. “It seems that an Islamist-motivated attack was prevented before today’s Yom Kippur Day,” said Laschet. He himself was informed about possible attack plans on Wednesday evening.
Synagogue cordoned off on Wednesday
On Wednesday afternoon, strong police cordoned off the synagogue after there had been indications of a “possible danger”. The street in downtown Hagen, where the synagogue is located, was blocked 250 meters away. The police spokesman said that a large number of forces were deployed.
A service planned for Wednesday evening on Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holiday, was canceled at short notice. Most of the members of the community could have been informed of the cancellation by phone and did not even come to the synagogue. Some were informed by the police at the barriers and sent back home. This went off very calmly and without panic, said the spokesman. Neighbors who wanted to go to their apartments in the vicinity had to show their identity card. Dog handlers with several police dogs searched the synagogue and the neighboring parish hall, which also houses a doctor’s office.
Hagens Mayor Erik O. Schulz has assured the Jewish community of his solidarity in the face of the threat. “As little as we know about the exact situation – our thoughts are with the Jewish community of Hagen,” he told the “Westfalenpost”. Schulz set out after an external appointment to get an idea of the operation on site, it said on Wednesday evening. The Jewish community in Hagen is small. According to the Central Welfare Office for Jews in Germany, it had 264 members in 2020.
Here is the photo gallery: Several arrests after police operations at the Hagen synagogue