Mumbai synagogues get security boost for holiday

Reports emerge of Islamist militant group surveying Jewish establishments in Mumbai for possible terrorist strikes.

Mumbai Chabad attack 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mumbai Chabad attack 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Indian police boosted security at Jewish institutions in Mumbai over Simhat Torah on Thursday and Friday due to intelligence that the Indian Mujahideen terrorist organization might attack them.
Police sources told The Hindu newspaper that following the Nairobi, Kenya, terrorist attack, in which Jewish-owned stores were among the targets, they conducted a security review and determined that since an attack against the American Jewish community was “impossible,” “al-Qaida is looking at softer targets.”
“India has a strong Jewish population, so an alert has been sounded across the country especially in states like Delhi, Maharashtra and Goa to strengthen the security around Jewish establishments and synagogues,” the anonymous police source said.
Several thousand Jews live in Mumbai, the largest city in India.
Under interrogation, recently arrested Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal told Indian counterterror officers that “he was asked by his bosses to get Jewish hostages,” the source added.
“Interrogation of arrested accused Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar have [sic] revealed that Jewish and other locations in Mumbai were recced [reconnoitered] by their operatives in the first week of August 2013,” according to a government report quoted by the Economic Times.
The Magen David Synagogue, Magen Hassidim Synagogue, Shaare Rason synagogue and Shaar Harahamim synagogue were all locations of interest for Indian Mujahideen.
Quick response teams were deployed outside of “every Jewish establishment” in the city, The Hindu reported.
For the past two months, “we have stationed two constables outside every synagogue,” Krishna Prakash, a police official, told the Indian Express.
“Senior inspectors and deputy commissioners of police have visited each location and beefed up security.”
Police have requested that synagogues use “door frame metal detectors and ensure that each person entering is frisked,” Prakash said.
Indian police called on Jewish establishments to hire security guards, install security cameras and issue ID cards to be used to gain admittance to the businesses, according to NDTV. They also have been instructed to not allow vehicles to park around their buildings.
The Indian Security Group, a volunteer security organization run by members of the Jewish community, has increased its activities, Mumbai resident Malka Moses told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “There is a high alert here.”
While concerns for security are important, Jonathan Solomon, chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation, told the Indian Express that maintaining good relations with the larger non-Jewish must also be a priority.
According to Solomon, the Jewish community sees a “foreign threat, but there is no distrust with the locals.
“It is a danger that bothers us and we are taking routine precautions, but there is a limit to what an ordinary person and institution can do in a city like Mumbai. So we have put up CCTV cameras and taken other such steps. However, we do not want to be counter-productive through these security measures based on an advisory and drive away the people. We feel secure in the round-the-clock support we have been receiving from the police for so many years now,” he said.
In 2012, an Israeli diplomat was targeted in an attempted bombing and six Jews, including Chabad emissary Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were killed when Nariman House, the hassidic movement’s local headquarters, was invaded by Islamic terrorists during the 2008 Mumbai massacre.
JTA contributed to this report.