Wednesday, January 11, 2006
MOSCOW SYNAGOGUE SCENE OF BLOODY ATTACK
Following the latest racist or anti-Semitic attack in Russia, Moscow police have arrested Alexander Kopstev, a 20-year-old skinhead, who stabbed at least eight people before evening prayers at a Moscow synagogue Wednesday evening.
Amongst those injured was Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, a son-in-law of the synagogue's rabbi who along with his son disarmed the terrorists and tied him up until police came.
Eyewitnesses said the attacker yelled, "Heil Hitler" and “I come to kill you,” as he attacked the men, who were eating in the kitchen prior to evening prayers. The man, wearing a leather jacket, continued to attack people in offices on the second floor before being stopped.
The floor of the synagogue was covered with blood stains.
The incident took place when the Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue in downtown Moscow was full of worshippers.
One man was in critical condition and at least four others are in serious condition, medical officials said Wednesday night. Among those wounded were Russians, several Israelis, an American and a resident of Tajikistan. The Rabbi was one of those rushed to the hospital and was undergoing surgery, Borukh Gorin, a spokesman for the Federation of Russia's Jewish Communities, said.
Gorin condemned the attacker as a Nazi. "It [Nazism] should be eradicated," Gorin said. He also said the Federation would boost security measures in synagogues across Russia.
The Russian Orthodox Church also condemned the attack. "The law enforcement agencies, the authorities and the public at large should make every effort to prevent such attacks," a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy said.
A police source told Interfax, "Twenty-year-old Muscovite Alexander Koptsev has never been a member of any extremist organizations. He has no previous criminal record, either.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli embassy said it had approached Russia's Foreign Ministry in the wake of the attack, demanding to ensure security for the local Jewish community. "Events in Moscow have aroused grave concerns. Our embassy has approached the Russian Foreign Ministry, demanding to ensure the Jewish community's security and prevent anti-Semitic acts," embassy press secretary Mikhail Brodsky said.
The synagogue is one of the oldest in Moscow and serves as the base of the Agudas Chasidei Chabad in Russia, a Lubavitch organization.
Just yesterday, hundreds of foreign students gathered before the Smolny Gates in St. Petersburg to protest yet another gruesome stabbing death of a student from Cameroon that local authorities are attributing to skinheads. The demonstrators handed an open letter to city authorities demanding they put an end to the spate of deadly attacks against foreign students that cities like St. Petersburg, Voronezh, and Moscow have witnessed in the recent year.
The group "African Unity," representing students from countries all over Asia and Africa, were joined somewhat surprisingly by activists of the Kremlin-spawned Nashi youth movement. They carried banners reading "Stop Racism" and some students covered themselves with white sheets. The city's education chief, Alexander Viktorov, came out to meet the demonstrators and was handed a letter. "The geography of losses of the past two years is vast: Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco, Congo, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, China, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Russia. When will this countdown end? We call on law enforcement agencies to rid St. Petersburg of this evil," the letter said. Sources: Interfax, MosNews, RIA Novosti, Jewish Telegraph Agency , Arutz Sheva, Moscow News