Armed suspect wounds guard at Moscow synagogue

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) – Russian police beefed up security around a central synagogue of Moscow following what they said was an attempted attack by an armed resident of the capital in which a security guard sustained mild injuries.

The incident occurred on Saturday at the Moscow Choral Synagogue, where the alleged attacker, carrying a canister of gasoline and a firearm, lightly wounded a security guard during a struggle, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Police detained the suspect, who threatened to burn down the building, according to the report.

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, prevented the suspect from entering the building and other security guards overpowered him at the entrance, according to the report.  He 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.

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Approximately 150 people, including the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, were in the building when the attempted attack happened, Goldschmidt wrote on Facebook Saturday. Goldschmidt wrote the suspect was carrying a pistol.

Police told Goldschmidt they will beef up security around the synagogue ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, which this year falls on Oct. 2-4.

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.