Three Arrested After Firebomb Attack on Swedish Synagogue

GOTHENBURG, Sweden — The Swedish police arrested three people on Sunday after a masked gang hurled Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in the port city of Gothenburg as it hosted an event on Saturday night.


The attack set the yard ablaze, but the building did not catch fire and no one was injured. The authorities said the people gathered on the premises had fled to safety in the basement.

A police spokeswoman, Ulla Brehm, said: “It might become a hate crime. The crime is attempted arson. But that may change during the investigation.”

The Police Authority’s commissioner, Dan Eliasson, told the Aftonbladet newspaper that the threat level against Jewish interests in Sweden had increased since President Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The attack in Gothenburg, a city on the country’s west coast, came a day after demonstrators took to the streets of Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, shouting slogans about killing or shooting Jews.


Allan Stutzinsky, chairman of the synagogue, who witnessed the fire, told a local newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, that about 10 young people who had gathered outside the gate began setting fire to objects and throwing them at the synagogue.

“They were masked and setting fire to things and then throwing them over the gate into the courtyard,” he said. “There was an actual fire in the yard, but then a heavy rainfall came, and the fire was put out quite quickly.”

Ms. Brehm, a spokeswoman for the police in Region West, said Gothenburg officers received a call about the episode after 10 p.m. Saturday. She said the suspects were dressed in black and wearing hoodies.

“They ran away, and shortly thereafter we got hold of three of them,” she said.

The police arrested three men in their 20s on suspicion of arson, Ms. Brehm said, adding that they were looking for other suspects. The police did not release further details about the suspects.

Swedish leaders condemned the attack on the synagogue. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement on Sunday: “There is no place for anti-Semitism in our Swedish society. The perpetrators will answer for their crimes.”

Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted: “The attack against the synagogue in Gothenburg and threat of violence against Jews in Malmo is deplorable and totally unacceptable. Anti-Semitism, threats and violence have no place in our society.”

Calle Persson, a spokesman for the police in Malmo, said about 200 people gathered in the Mollevangstorget square in central Malmo on Friday afternoon to demonstrate against Israel.

“They had Palestinian flags,” he said. “They sang and among other things they yelled that they were going to shoot Jews.”

He said officers were scouring video footage of the demonstration and investigating reports of hate speech. A similar demonstration was held on Thursday, he said.

According to Radio Sweden in Malmo, which reported from the scene of Friday’s demonstration, protesters said in Arabic, “We’ve called for intifada from Malmo.”

But at a demonstration outside the United States Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday, a speaker with a Palestinian scarf wrapped around his neck told the crowd: “There is no room for anti-Semitism here. Anyone who expresses those sentiments should leave.”

Fredrik Sieradzki, a spokesman for the Jewish Community Center in Malmo, said the threat against Jews had been heightened after the demonstrations. “Then this happened in Gothenburg,” he said.

He said Jewish leaders had met recently with representatives with Muslim and Palestinian organizations in Malmo. “They wanted to show that they do not accept violence, threats of violence or discrimination against Jews in Malmo,” Mr. Sieradzki said.

Malmo, about 169 miles south of Gothenburg, has seen the highest incidence of anti-Semitic incidents in recent years. “That’s why we’re trying to do something about it together with the City of Malmo,” Mr. Sieradzki said.

The Jewish population in Sweden numbers about 18,000, according to the Jewish Museum in Stockholm.

A police chief in Gothenburg told the TT wire agency that Jews in Sweden might fall victim to attacks from leftist extremists angry at Israel, from anti-Semitic right-wing groups or from Muslim extremist groups.

In September, a neo-Nazi group wanted to march by the Gothenburg synagogue while Jews worldwide were celebrating Yom Kippur. A court denied their request.

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