German police arrested four men including a 16-year-old Syrian in connection with a possible terrorist attack targeting a synagogue in Hagen in western Germany. It was announced on Thursday that authorities acted on a “very serious and concrete tip” that an attack on the synagogue would take place on the Jews’ holiest day of the year, Herbert Reulnterior, minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told a news conference. The information that tipped people off claimed it was “an Islamist-motivated threat situation” and included detailed information as to the precise timing. As the holy day began on Wednesday, police searched the buildings for bombs and set up a security perimeter. The synagogue canceled its holy day prayers.
“It appears that prior to today on Yom Kippur, an Islamist motivated attack was averted,” said Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia. “We will do everything we can to clarify which networks may have been behind the plot.”
News magazine Der Spiegel reported that the tip came from an unidentified foreign intelligence service. The 16-year-old reportedly told someone in an online chat that he was planning an attack with explosives on a synagogue
The incident raises echoes of a shooting in 2019 in Halle on Yom Kippur. The shooter was prevented from entering the synagogue shot and killed two people near the synagogue and injured two others. Unlike the recent plot, the 2019 attack was claimed to be motivated by right-wing extremist motivations.
80 years after the Holocaust, antisemitism is a growing problem in Germany. In addition to far-right Neonazism, much of the recent wave is fueled by an influx of Muslim refugees that began in 2015. In police statistics, more than 90 percent of incidents are counted as “right-wing extremism”. But government officials and Jewish leaders doubt that figure because cases with the unknown perpetrator and some kinds of attacks get automatically classified as “extreme right”. In February 2019, crime data released by the government for 2018 and published in Der Tagesspiegel showed a yearly increase of 10%, with 1,646 crimes linked to a hatred of Jews in 2018, with the totals not finalized as yet. There was a 60% rise in physical attacks (62 violent incidents, vs 37 in 2017). A 2018 study concluded that almost 80% of antisemitic incidents were carried out by Muslim perpetrators, about 25% by far left-wing perpetrators, and about 18% by far right-wing,