Austrian authorities say a suspect has been arrested after an assault on the head of the Jewish community in Graz, the country’s second-biggest city.
Community leader Elie Rosen on Saturday afternoon saw a man throwing stones into the courtyard of a synagogue. Police have said that he spoke to the man, who then attacked him with a piece of wood — probably a baseball bat. Rosen was in his car by that point and wasn’t hurt; the assailant fled.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer tweeted Sunday night that the suspected assailant had been arrested in Graz.
On Monday, he said the suspect is a 31-year-old refugee from Syria who has been in Austria since 2013.
Police found stones in his backpack as well as a chair leg that he allegedly used as a club. Nehammer said the man admitted to the assault in questioning, APA reported.
"Investigators believe that there was an Islamist motive," he said at a news conference. "Corresponding evidence was seized at his apartment."
The man also is suspected of causing damage at a Catholic church and an LGBT community center, Nehammer said.
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and other senior government politicians said they were shocked over the attack and ordered tighter security at Jewish institutions around Austria.
Kurz said on Twitter he was shocked by the attack on Rosen and authorities would do what they could to find the perpetrator and guarantee the security of the Jewish community in the country.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said, also on Twitter, that surveillance of all Jewish institutions in Austria would be tightened in response.
According to a report published in May by the Jewish Community of Vienna and the Forum against Antisemitism, 550 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Austria in 2019, up 9.5% versus 2017.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen also condemned the attack on Twitter, saying: "Hatred towards Jews and anti-Semitism have no place in our society."