Iraqi man with kippah and knives stopped at entrance to Antwerp synagogue
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Iraqi man with kippah and knives stopped at entrance to Antwerp synagogue

Guards suspected the man, who claimed to be Jewish, was not a member of the community; police detain him for questioning

File: Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday, January 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
File: Belgian para-commandos patrol near a synagogue in the center of Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday, January 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

JTA — A non-Jewish Arab man wearing a kippah and carrying several concealed knives was intercepted by guards as he attempted to enter an Antwerp synagogue.

The 34-year-old Iraqi citizen was questioned by guards when he tried to enter the Romi Goldmuntz Synagoge in the Belgian city on Monday, during the holiday of Shavuot, the Joodse Actueel newspaper reported Tuesday. The man said he spoke neither Hebrew nor Yiddish but insisted he was a member of the city’s Jewish community, the report said, citing police sources.

The guards — members of the community’s Shmira security service — had approached the man with some suspicion because they saw him arrive on a bicycle, a means of transportation that few observant Jews in Antwerp use on Jewish holidays.

The man did speak good Flemish, the report said. The guards called police, who detained the man for questioning.

Extra police deploy in Belgium after a May 2014 attack at the Jewish museum in Brussels. (Joods Actueel/Flash90)

“He came in wearing a hat and a kippah and pretended to be Jewish, but it was immediately clear to us he did not belong to the Jewish community,” one guard, who was not named, told Joods Actueel.

Attempts to gain access to synagogues, which are restricted to worshipers for security reasons, are common in Antwerp. But such attempts by men carrying knives are extremely rare.

Still, the incident may not have been an attempted attack, Joods Actueel wrote. The knives he carried were small, not much larger than the blade of a pocket knife, and the man seemed not entirely focused, the report said.

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