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German police detain 4 in alleged plot to attack synagogue on Yom Kippur

Police outside a Jewish community building in Germany
Police officers maintain watch outside a Jewish community building in Hagen, Germany, on Thursday.
(Henning Kaiser / DPA)

A 16-year-old boy and three other people were detained Thursday in connection with a suspected plan for an Islamic extremist attack on a synagogue in the German city of Hagen, authorities said.

The detentions took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, and two years after a deadly attack in another German city on the Yom Kippur holiday.

Police cordoned off the synagogue Wednesday, and a worship service planned for the evening was called off.

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Officials had received “very serious and concrete information” that there could be an attack on the synagogue during Yom Kippur, said Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state. The tip pointed to “an Islamist-motivated threat situation” and named the possible timing and suspect, he added.

Police using sniffer dogs found no dangerous objects in or around the synagogue, Reul said. On Thursday morning, the 16-year-old, a Syrian national who lives in Hagen, was detained. Three other people were detained in a raid on an apartment, and authorities are investigating whether they were involved in the suspected plan, the minister said.

Reul said searches were ongoing in Hagen, but gave no details and took no questions. He didn’t say where the tip came from.

A court has convicted a man of murder for his attack on a synagogue last year, one of Germany’s worst anti-Semitic incidents since World War II.

Newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported, without identifying sources, that the tip came from a foreign intelligence service. It said the teenager told someone in an online chat that he was planning an attack with explosives on a synagogue, and the probe led investigators to the 16-year-old, who lives with his father in Hagen.

Two years ago on Yom Kippur, a German right-wing extremist attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle. The attack on is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in the country’s post-war history.

The attacker repeatedly tried, but failed, to force his way into the synagogue with 52 worshipers inside. He then shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop as an “appropriate target” with immigrant roots.

He posted an anti-Semitic screed before carrying out the Oct. 9, 2019, attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht sharply condemned the alleged attack planned for Hagen.

“It is intolerable that Jews are again exposed to such a horrible threat and that they cannot celebrate the start of their highest holiday, Yom Kippur, together,” the minister said.


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