The German government said a young Iraqi man suspected in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Jewish schoolgirl in western Germany has been arrested in his homeland.
The Interior Ministry said 20-year-old Ali Bashar was arrested by Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq early Friday at the request of German police.
The body of the girl, named as Susanna Maria Feldman, who had been missing since May 22, was found Wednesday buried on the outskirts of the western German city of Wiesbaden.
Bashar was a suspect in a string of previous offenses in the area, including a robbery at knifepoint. The dpa news agency reported that the victim knew Bashar’s brother.
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.
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.
Germany’s Central Council of Jews said Feldman was a member of the Jewish community in Mainz, near Wiesbaden. It called for a thorough investigation and warned in a statement against “premature conclusions.”
The Jewish community of Mainz reacted to the tragedy with shock and grief.
“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.
The case has preoccupied German media for several days. News of the discovery of Feldman’s body’s 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.”
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.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.