The Jewish community of Mainz reacted with shock and grief Thursday after a 14-year-old girl was found dead, as police launched a manhunt for an Iraqi refugee suspected of killing her.
The girl, initially identified as Susanna F., was found Wednesday on the outskirts of the western German city of Wiesbaden. She had been missing since May 22. She was later named as Susanna Feldman.
Prosecutors said Thursday that two men — a 20-year-old Iraqi and a 35-year-old Turkish citizen, both of whom lived at homes for asylum-seekers in the city — are suspected of raping and killing the girl on the evening she went missing. They believe the two then buried her body.
“I am as shocked, sad and aghast about the violent death of Susanna as one can be,” Rabbi Aharon Ran Vernikovsky, who leads the Mainz Jewish community, told the Juedische Allgemeine weekly, adding that the community would do everything in its power to help and support her family, who live in Mainz.
Susanna’s case has preoccupied German media for several days. News of her body’s discovery near neighboring Wiesbaden made headlines nationwide, though most newspapers did not initially mention the fact that she was Jewish.
On Thursday afternoon, the Central Council of Jews in Germany confirmed that the victim was Jewish and expressed its condolences to her friends and family.
“A young life was ended in a gruesome fashion,” the statement read. “Our deepest sympathies are with family and friends. Susanna was a member of the Jewish Community Mainz.”
At this point, there is no information as to the suspects’ motives, and whether the murder will be investigated as a hate crime.
“Currently, the background of the deed is still unclear,” the Council said in its statement. “We expect law enforcement authorities to speedily and comprehensively solve the case, as well as harsh consequences for the perpetrator or the perpetrators. Premature conclusions or speculations, however, must not be made.”
Entsetzen über die Ermordung der 14-jährigen SusannaMit tiefer Betroffenheit hat der Zentralrat der Juden in…
Police say the Iraqi suspect, whom they identified as Ali Basar, appears to have left abruptly with his family last week, flying to Erbil, Iraq, via Istanbul. He was a suspect in a string of previous offenses in the area, including a robbery at knifepoint.
He is believed to have arrived in Germany in October 2015, at the height of the migrant influx to Germany, and was appealing the rejection of his asylum application.
The Turkish suspect, who wasn’t previously known to police, was arrested Wednesday evening.
Police said a 13-year-old refugee boy went to a police station in Wiesbaden on Sunday and told officers the girl had been raped and killed, and named the Iraqi as a possible perpetrator.
Previous killings by asylum-seekers in Germany have fanned tensions over the influx of more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016, an issue that helped the far-right Alternative for Germany enter the German parliament last year.
The surge of migrants also sparked a rash of attacks on asylum-seekers’ homes, which has since tapered off.
In one case, two men were convicted Thursday in the southwestern city of Landau of setting fire to a home being built for asylum-seekers in the nearby town of Herxheim in 2015. They both received probation.