Denmark's capital Copenhagen was hit by two terrorist attacks this weekend, one targeting the city's main synagogue. Dan Uzan, a 37-year-old member of the Jewish community, was shot dead by a gunman outside the synagogue. Two policemen were wounded. In a separate attack earlier, another man was killed during a free speech debate at a café, while two were injured. The World Jewish Congress condemned the attacks and urged Danish authorities to ensure the protection of the local Jewish community.
Later on Sunday morning, police shot dead a man near a railway station in the neighborhood of Norrebro where they had been keeping an address under observation. The man is believed to have perpetrated the attack at the synagogue.
Officers had an address in the Norrebro area under observation and hailed the man as he approached before he opened fire on them and was shot, police said. Investigator Joergen Skov told reporters the preliminary probe showed nothing that suggested there were other gunmen involved in the two earlier attacks. Torben Moelgaard Jensen, a senior police official, said: “We believe the same man was behind both shootings and we also believe that the perpetrator who was shot by the police action force at Norrebro station is the person behind the two attacks.”
The first attack took place at a Copenhagen café on Saturday afternoon. Thirty shots were fired by the gunman into a cafe at a public seminar on “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression,” intended to discuss the January attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper that had reprinted Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. The event featured a Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilks, 68, who had drawn a 2007 cartoon of Mohammad as a dog at a traffic circle and was on a “death list” drawn up by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as was the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier.. The French ambassador to Denmark was also present at the event.
The incident at the synagogue occurred shortly before 1 a.m. on Sunday morning. Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, president of the local Jewish community, told Danish television that around 80 people from the community had been gathered inside the Jewish community center for a Bat Mitzva celebration on Saturday night. “The community is in shock. It is like the shootings in Paris,” Rosenberg Asmussen said, adding: “We had contacted the police after the shooting at Café Krudttønden to have them present at the Bat Mitzva, but unfortunately this happened anyway.”
'Protect local Jewish community', Lauder urges Danes
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder strongly condemned the attacks and urged the Danish government to find those responsible while stepping up efforts to protect the local Jewish community against rising anti-Semitic violence.
“The World Jewish Congress deplores these despicable attacks, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community and the people of Denmark,” said Lauder. “These attacks in Copenhagen follow the similar, brutal targeting of Jews and others in Paris and across Europe,” Lauder added. “European governments should recognize that we are facing a vicious new wave of anti-Semitism and violence. It is crucial that Europe contends with this growing threat.”
World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer visited Copenhagen late last year and discussed with Danish authorities the importance of heightening security measures for the local Jewish community.
Following the first attack, Denmark’s Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said: “We feel certain now that it’s a religiously motivated attack, and thereby it is a terrorist attack. We take this situation extremely seriously. We are in a high alarm all over the country, and our main priority at this stage is to catch the perpetrators and make sure that we find them as soon as possible.”