Five men arrested in connection with firebomb attack on synagogue in Tunisia

A member of the Jewish community of the Tunisian island of Djerba praying at the El Ghriba Synagogue in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

A member of the Jewish community of the Tunisian island of Djerba praying at the El Ghriba Synagogue in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

(JTA) – Five men were arrested in connection with a firebomb attack on a historic synagogue in Tunisia.

Four of the men, ages 19 and 20, were arrested on Friday and a fifth, age 21, believed to be the main culprit in the Jan. 9 attack, was arrested on Saturday, the Kapitalis news website reported. None of the men, residents of the island’s main city of Houmet Essouk, had a criminal record and were not known to security services, according to the report.

The firebomb thrown at the El Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba caused minor damage and no injuries. The incident occurred amid protests over economic conditions taking place in several Tunisian cities, though not in Djerba itself, Reuters reported.

The Tunisian Interior Ministry said the suspects’ attack was not religiously motivated, but rather an attempt to “create chaos” amid the anti-government protests throughout the country, Ynet reported.

Four Jewish families live in the area. Most of the Djerba Jewish community, which numbers in the hundreds and is the largest in the Arab world, lives two miles north of there in a neighbourhood that is under heavy protection and whose entrances are guarded around the clock by the country’s internal security services.

Tunisian police increased their security around the Djerba Jewish institutions.

In 2002, terrorists blew up a vehicle near the El Ghriba synagogue, killing 21. The synagogue, in the village of Er-Riadh, dates back to 586 BCE, although the current building was reconstructed in the 19th century. It is sometimes cited as North Africa’s oldest synagogue.

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