Security guard shot by gunman in attack on Moscow synagogue
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Security guard shot by gunman in attack on Moscow synagogue

Assailant, possibly mentally unstable, arrested after threatening to burn down Jewish house of worship

The scene of Saturday, October 1, 2016's, attack on a Moscow synagogue that injured a security guard (YouTube screenshot)
The scene of Saturday, October 1, 2016's, attack on a Moscow synagogue that injured a security guard (YouTube screenshot)

A security guard at a Moscow synagogue was wounded Saturday evening when a man armed with a gun and a gasoline canister attempted to break into the Jewish institution and set it alight, Russian media reported.

Early reports said the guard was seriously injured after being shot in the head and chest while trying to stop the assailant from entering the Choral Synagogue. However, the the RIA Novosti news agency later said he was only mildly injured.

The attacker was arrested. Police have yet to give any official word on his motives.

The assailant arrived during a Sabbath prayer service, when about 150 worshipers were inside, and threatened to burn the building down, while also demanding to meet Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.

A man (right), possibly the suspected attacker, is restrained by a policeman at the scene of Saturday's attack on a Moscow synagogue that injured a security guard (YouTube screenshot)
A man (right), possibly the suspected attacker, is restrained by a policeman at the scene of Saturday’s attack on a Moscow synagogue that injured a security guard (YouTube screenshot)

Several security guards blocked him from entering and took him across the street, at which point he reportedly shot one of them. The other security guards then held him down until police arrived.

The Moskovskij Komsomolets daily identified the injured security guard as Oleg Demshin, 35. He suffered injuries to his hand, the paper reported. Demshin, a father of one, has worked at the synagogue for two years.

The attacker was Ivan Lebedev, a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness, Moskovskij Komsomolets reported.

A spokeswoman for the synagogue later said security at the site would be boosted over the upcoming Jewish holiday season to prevent any repeat incidents.

Anti-Semitic attacks are rare in Russia, where watchdogs record a few dozen of them annually — a fraction of the tally recorded in Western European countries with large Jewish communities, including France and the United Kingdom.

Notwithstanding, some synagogues in Russia are guarded by security carrying automatic firearm for fear of terrorist attacks by Muslim radicals who have long targeted Russia.

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