ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities said police continued searches in Athens and other parts of the country on Wednesday after arresting two suspects accused of planning an attack on a Jewish center in a busy downtown area of the Greek capital have.
The two men, who are described as being of Pakistani origin but have not been identified, were charged on Tuesday with terrorism-related offences, while a third man, believed to be in Iran, was charged in absentia .
Rabbi Mendel Hendel, who runs the Jewish center in Chabad, said he learned about the planned attack on the news.
“Thank God we’re safe. We are grateful that this act of terrorism was prevented,” Hendel said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press by his wife, Nechama. “We would like to publicly thank the Greek authorities.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Tuesday that his country’s intelligence agency, Mossad, helped Greece prevent the terrorist attack. A statement from his office said the attackers had ties to Iran.
Greek authorities are investigating whether further attacks on Jewish sites in Athens were planned. The arrests were announced ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 5-13.
Public Order Minister Takis Theodorikakos said it was likely the two suspects were offered money to carry out the attack.
“From the evidence we have received, the motivation appears to be financial. The organizer they consulted with was a compatriot in Iran,” Theodorikakos told private TV station Antenna.
The Jewish community of Athens sent a letter to the minister thanking the authorities for the arrests.
“A terrorist attack on Jewish targets in a busy area of the historic center of Athens was prevented,” the municipality said in a statement.
“Thanks to the methodical work and timely intervention of the security forces, dozens of lives were saved.”
The two suspects are to be brought before the public prosecutor’s office on Friday.
The Jewish community in Greece is one of the oldest in Europe. More than 80% of the country’s Jews died in the Holocaust during the Nazi occupation.
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