Jews on alert after student stabbed on bus

Attack in London is linked to Middle East crisis
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The Independent Online

Britain's Jewish community was under a state of alert yesterday after the multiple stabbing of a Hasidic theology student as he sat wearing a skull cap and reading psalms on a London bus.

Britain's Jewish community was under a state of alert yesterday after the multiple stabbing of a Hasidic theology student as he sat wearing a skull cap and reading psalms on a London bus.

David Myers was stabbed around 20 times in the chest, face, arms and legs by a man wielding a six-inch hunting knife. A 27-year-old man, believed to be an Algerian living in north London, was being held yesterday by police, who are treating the attack as racist.

Mr Myers was in a serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit of a London hospital yesterday.

The stabbing, at 11am on Monday, has created a sense of panic in the north London district of Stamford Hill where the attack took place. The area is the centre of London's Orthodox Jewish community.

Mike Whine, a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the attack may be linked to inflammatory statements from Islamic militants, who have called for attacks on Jews worldwide after clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

Mr Whine said: "We have been getting calls from people in the Stamford Hill area. They are really panicky."

Demonstrations by Muslim groups against Israel have taken place in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester in the past 10 days, leading to at least 16 arrests for public order offences. Leaflets have been circulated with headings such as "Kill The Jews", and the windows of eight synagogues have been broken.

Mr Myers, a theology student at the Gateshead Yeshiva, a Jewish college, had returned to his family home in Finchley, north London, to be with his parents for last weekend's festival of Succoth, when Jewish families make ceremonial tents outside their homes to symbolise the departure of the Jews from Egypt.

His stabbing caused schoolchildren to flee the 253 bus in terror, as he collapsed on the upper deck. The attacker threatened the driver before getting off and boarding another bus.

Volvy Kupferstein, who works at a bakery in Stamford Hill, said he saw the attacker calmly putting a hunting knife into his pocket as he walked off the bus.

Mr Kupferstein said he had picked up a first-aid kit and tried to tend to Mr Myers.

"He looked like a proper Orthodox Jew, with a full beard," he said. "It was shocking. He was soaked in blood and had deep wounds in his forehead and his chest.

"I tried to ask him what had happened but he was too weak to say."

Mr Myers was also treated by the crew of an ambulancethat was flagged down by bus passengers and passers-by.

Police were called by a passenger on his mobile phone, and they arrested a man shortly afterwards near South Tottenham railway station. He was taken to a police station at Shoreditch, east London.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Syrian-born militant Islamic leader based in London, said yesterday that Britain's Muslims were "not at war" with the Jewish community. But he warned: "If they are going to raise funds for Israel they are going to put themselves in the conflict and become legitimate targets for Muslims wherever they are."

At a rally in London on Friday, Mr Bakri Mohammed told a crowd: "All Israeli targets are legitimate for you. All Israelis must be destroyed."

He said yesterday that the England cricket team was wrong to travel for its imminent tour of Pakistan and risked being attacked by anti-Western extremists who "do not distinguish between civilian and military targets".

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