ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities said police were continuing searches in Athens and other parts of the country Wednesday following the arrest of two suspects accused of planning an attack at Jewish center in a busy downtown area of the Greek capital.
The two men, described of being of Pakistani origin but not further identified, were charged Tuesday with terrorism offenses, while a third man believed to be in Iran was charged in absentia.
Rabbi Mendel Hendel, who runs the Chabad Jewish center, said he learned about the planned attack on the news.
“Thank God we are safe. We’re grateful that this act of terrorism was prevented,” Hendel said in a statement with his wife Nechama e-mailed to the Associated Press. “We would like to publicly thank the Greek authorities.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Tuesday said his country’s intelligence agency Mossad helped Greece prevent the terrorist attack. A statement from his office maintained the attackers were linked to Iran.
Greek authorities are investigating whether other attacks on Jewish sites in Athens were being planned. The arrests were announced ahead of the April 5-13 Jewish holiday of Passover, when many Israeli tourists flock to Greece.
ביוון מפרסמים: חוסיין (29) וחיידר (27) הם המחבלים הפקיסטינים ילידי איראן שתכננו לרצוח ישראלים באתונה בשליחות כוח קודס האירני pic.twitter.com/5aKV0DzL3n
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) March 29, 2023
Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said it was likely the two suspects had been offered money to carry out the attack.
“From the evidence we have obtained, the motivation appears to be financial. The organizer they consulted with was a fellow countryman in Iran,” Theodorikakos told private Antenna television.
The two suspects are due to appear before a public prosecutor Friday.
The Jewish Community of Athens sent a letter to the minister thanking the authorities for the arrests. “A terrorist attack has been prevented against Jewish targets in a busy area of the historic center of Athens,” the community said in a statement.
“Thanks to the methodical work and timely intervention of the security forces, dozens of human lives have been saved.”
The Jewish community in Greece is one of the oldest in Europe. More than 80 percent of the country’s Jews died in the Holocaust during the Nazi occupation.