German police detain four people over threat of Islamist extremist attack on synagogue

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Local interior minister Herbert Reul has said that officials received “very serious and concrete information” suggesting an imminent attack  (Getty Images)
Local interior minister Herbert Reul has said that officials received “very serious and concrete information” suggesting an imminent attack (Getty Images)

Four people, including a 16-year-old boy, have been detained in Germany in connection with a suspected plan for an Islamist extremist attack on a synagogue, authorities have said.

Police cordoned off a synagogue in the city of Hagen on Wednesday and a worship service planned for the evening was called off after officials received reports about a potential attack.

It came on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur and two years after a deadly attack on a synagogue in another German city.

Herbert Reul, interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia state, where Hagen is located, said officials had received “very serious and concrete information” that there could be an attack on the location during Yom Kippur.

He said that the tip pointed to “an Islamist-motivated threat situation”, and named the possible timing and suspect.

However, Mr Ruel added that police officers using sniffer dogs found no dangerous objects in or around the synagogue.

The 16-year-old, a Syrian national who lives in Hagen, was detained on Thursday morning, while three other people were detained in a raid on an apartment, according to the minister.

Although he gave no further details and took no questions from reporters on the matter, Mr Reul also said that searches were ongoing in the city.

The German newspaper Der Spiegel has reported that the tip came from a foreign intelligence service, but did not identify its sources for this information.

It said that the teenager told someone in an online chat that he was planning an attack with explosives on a synagogue, prompting a probe which led investigators to the 16-year-old, who lived with his father in 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,” German justice minister Christine Lambrecht said in response to the suspected plot.

In 2019, two people were killed when a right-wing extremist attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle on Yom Kippur, in what was considered to be one of the worst antisemitic assaults in the country’s post-war history.

The attacker, a 27-year-old neo-Nazi, unsuccessfully attempted to force his way into the synagogue with 52 worshippers inside before shooting dead a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop.

The gunman, who shared antisemitic posts online before carrying out the attack, was sentenced to life in prison last year after he was convicted of two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder.

Additional reporting by AP

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