“Denmark has been hit by terror,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Sunday after two civilians were killed and five police were wounded in the two separate attacks in the Danish capital on Shabbos, including an attack on Copenhagen’s largest shul, which saw Jewish security Dan Uzan (pictured at left) shot in the head.
“We do not know the motive for the alleged perpetrator’s actions, but we know that there are forces that want to hurt Denmark. They want to rebuke our freedom of speech,” Thorning-Schmidt said.
“When you mercilessly fire deadly bullets at innocent people taking part in a debate, when you attack the Jewish community, you attack our democracy, the whole of Denmark is attacked,” Thorning-Schmidt said outside the synagogue. “We will do everything possible to protect our Jewish community.”
However, the leader was also quick to play down the religious aspect, saying “We are not facing a fight between Islam and the West, it is not a fight between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark echoed her words, saying “My thoughts go out to the killed film director and the young security guard form the Jewish community, who became targets for the perpetrator’s actions. It is important during such a serious situation that we stand together and protect the values that Denmark is founded on.”
Local authorities claimed the attack may have been inspired an attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last month, authorities said.
Denmark’s spy chief Jens Madsen said the gunman was known to the intelligence services prior to the shooting and probably acted alone. He did not elaborate.
A European Jewish organization on Sunday demanded round-the-clock protection at Jewish institutions following the shooting attacks in Denmark at a synagogue and free speech event that left two people dead.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, accused European Union leaders of not doing enough to combat anti-Semitic attacks and prejudices. In a statement, Margolin said there was a need to “secure all Jewish institutions 24/7,” and demanded European governments and EU institutions take action.
On Thursday, EU leaders agreed to dramatically step up cooperation in the counter-terrorism field, following the attacks in Paris last month that killed 17 victims. One of the targets in the Paris attacks was a kosher supermarket where four hostages, all of them Jewish, were killed.
The three gunmen involved in the Paris attacks, all of whom were shot dead by police, claimed to be acting on behalf of extremist Muslim organizations.
Following Saturday’s attacks in Denmark, EU President Donald Tusk said the latest acts of violence would only strengthen Europeans’ resolve to fight all kinds of extremism and terrorism.
“We will press forward with our new agreed priorities in the fight against terrorism,” Tusk said in a statement. “We will face this threat together.”
Fears of a new wave of violent anti-Semitism in Europe were sparked last May by an armed attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in which four people died. Margolin accused EU leaders of burying their heads “in the sand,” and called for establishment of a Europe-wide task force to beef up protection of Jewish institutions and reinforce educational efforts against what he called “rampant anti-Semitism.”
“European leaders need to support us in fighting the battle on terror in our homeland,” the leader of the Brussels-based Jewish association said.
Denmark’s former chief rabbi, Rabbi Bent Lexner, told Israeli Army Radio the synagogue Uzan was “a fantastic guy”, adding: “We are in shock. I am sitting now with the parents of the man killed. We didn’t think such a thing could happen in Denmark.”
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said such attacks would likely continue and said Israel would welcome European Jews who choose to move to there.
Jair Melchior, Denmark’s chief rabbi, said he was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s call for immigration following the attack.
“Terror is not a reason to move to Israel,” he said.
“The solution for the Jews of Denmark is not to leave in the wake of the terror attacks in Copenhagen on Saturday,” Denmark’s ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr said on Sunday. “Our prime minister said that an attack on the Jewish community is an attack on all of Denmark’s citizens. I echo this sentiment. We will do everything in our power so that the Jewish community in Denmark feels safe.”