MALMO (EJP)---Swedish police confirmed reports of an explosion being sounded at a Jewish community centre in Malmo, in the South of the country Friday, as the entrance was discovered smashed on their arrival to the scene. The incident is thought to have occurred around 12.45am local time.
After two vehicles were reported leaving the scene at high speeds following the blast, police identified one of the vehicles several hours later and took two 18-year-old men in for questioning.
No casualties or injuries were reported in this latest fracas at the community centre at Kamregatan in Malmo, the scene of increasing numbers of anti-Semitic acts.
Loose paving stones and shards of glass were found outside the entance to the centre where police say there were clear signs of an attempted break-in, although the building itself was not damaged.
"I'm shocked that it's happened now; that it's happened at all. Jewish institutions are under constant threat, but we haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary recently," Fred Kahn, head of the Jewish community in Malmö, told the Swedish TT press agency.
Last month, several hundred members of the Swedish Jewish community marched on Malmo to protest at the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years, in a demonstration organised by the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism.
Attendees were addressed by fellow-participant Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s Minister for EU affairs, who spoke of Malmo being a city open to everyone regardless of race or religious affiliation, in a gesture aimed at redressing fears Sweden does not take anti-Semitism seriously.
Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, has seen the majority of harassment of Sweden’s Jewish population occur on its turf, with 400 anti-Semitic incidents reported in the city in 2009 alone.
Sweden has seen a surge in hate crimes since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009, which has led to criticisms of the government’s mechanism for handling anti-Semitic incidents. Larger-scale pro-Israel protests have also been held in the capital of Stockholm, with one demonstration earlier this month attracting 1,200 attendees.
Malmo mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who has previously been criticized for making controversial statements about the city's Jewish community, condemned Friday's attack.
"It's a terrible incident which damages different groups in Malmo as well as Malmo's brand," he told TT.
"It's terrible and shocking when things like this happen."
Reepalu added that he hoped police would be able to solve the crime quickly and that it doesn't lead to heightened tensions in the city.
"This is a criminal act," he said.
Earlier this year, Social Democrat Reepalu came under fire for comments in which he claimed that the extreme right Sweden Democrats had "infiltrated" the Jewish community in Malmo.
The comments were followed by a visit to Malmo from US President Barack Obama's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, who said there is "no excuse" for using anti-Semitic language.
In 2009, comments by Reepalu prompted the the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in the United States warned Jews from traveling to Sweden's third largest city.
Last year, in response to an open letter by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre calling on the administration to establish public funds to help the Jewish community to set up security measures for communal facilities, the government allocated four million kroner ($621,000, €440,000) of its 2012 budget to protect the Jewish community.
Announcing the initiative, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag issued a statement saying “public funds are needed in the form of a one-off sum to increase security and reduce the vulnerability of the Jewish minority in society”, adding that “anti-Semitic remarks and other negative treatment based on racial assumptions is never acceptable in a democratic society”.
The government has also revealed studies showing that “while tolerance is increasing in society, anti-Semitic views have not decreased at the same rate”. “Some Jews in Sweden choose not to reveal that they belong to the Jewish minority out of fear,” it added.
According to the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, there are some 20,000 Jews living in Sweden, predominantly in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Most Swedish Jews are descendants of pre-war refugees and of Holocaust.