A bomb blast during prayers yesterday damaged Riga’s sole remaining synagogue, situated in the historic old town. There were no casualties. Jugendstil stained glass windows suffered.
President Guntis Ulmanis expressed his regret and indignation both in a telephone call to Latvia’s chief rabbi and in a public statement. The president also called a special session of the National Security Council in connection with the incident. Prime Minister Guntars Krasts, Internal Affairs Minister Ziedonis Cevers — leader of Latvia’s largest party, Saimnieks — and other officials went to the site and spoke with community members in a gesture of solidarity. Latvia’s Parliament unanimously voted a resolution condemning the attack.
A joint task force of the security and law enforcement agencies has been set up to find and prosecute the perpetrators. An investigative group from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations has been invited to assist the Latvian agencies. The government and the municipality announced separately that they would finance the repair work.
Rabbi Mordechai Glazman, in charge of the synagogue, stated that he "does not feel threatened or unsafe" in Latvia. The chief rabbi, Natans Barkans, said that the attack "aimed to undermine Latvia’s international reputation, rather than the Jewish community as such." The perpetrators, Barkans continued, "wanted to damage our good relations with the Latvian state and people." Krasts similarly suspected those "circles who are constantly interested in fostering tensions within society" and in "damaging Latvia’s external relations." U.S. financier and senior diplomat Richard Holbrooke, currently visiting Latvia, was cited as praising the authorities’ response and stating that the blast did not reflect negatively on Latvia as a country. The synagogue was the target of another blast in 1995, but the perpetrators of that incident were not found. (Latvian Radio, BNS, AP, April 2)
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