German police detain teen after Yom Kippur synagogue threat

Filed on September 17, 2021 | Last updated on September 17, 2021 at 12.20 am
Police officers stay in front of the entrance to the Jewish Community building in Hagen. — AP

Authorities detain a 16-year-old boy in connection with a possible plan for an attack on a synagogue in the German city of Hagen

A 16-year-old boy was detained on Thursday in connection with a possible plan for an extremist attack on a synagogue in the German city of Hagen, authorities said.

The detention 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 on Wednesday and a worship service planned for the evening was called off.

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, where Hagen is located.

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, the minister said.

Those three — reportedly the teenager’s father and two brothers — were released on Thursday evening and are currently not under suspicion, prosecutors told news agency dpa. They said the boy allegedly acknowledged having had contact with a bomb-building expert via the messaging app Telegram, but denied having intended to attack the synagogue.

Investigators didn’t find any bomb components in a search of the teenager’s home, but did seize cellphones and other materials that they will now evaluate.

Reul didn’t say where the tip on the alleged threat came from.

News magazine Der Spiegel reported, without identifying sources, that it 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.

Two years ago on Yom Kippur, a German right-wing extremist attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle. That attack 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 worshippers 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 October 9, 2019, attack in the eastern German city of Halle and broadcast the shooting live on a popular gaming site.

German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht sharply condemned the foiled Hagen attack.

“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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