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Saturday, August 14, 1999 Published at 02:05 GMT 03:05 UK

World: Americas

Jewish groups issue security alert

A young victim of the community centre shootings leaves hospital

By Religious Affairs Correspondent Jane Little

Jewish groups in the United States and abroad have issued security alerts in the wake of a shooting spree at a Los Angeles Jewish community centre on Tuesday.

The Jewish Community Association of North America has told its nearly 300 centres to consult with police while British Jews have been warned to be vigilant following concerns that fanatics might heed calls over the Internet for copycat attacks.

America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • The man arrested in connection with the shootings, Buford Furrow, has been charged with five counts of attempted murder on grounds of the victim's perceived race or religion.

    His links to a white supremacist group, the Aryan Nations, have focused the spotlight once again on American neo-nazism.

    'Wake-up call'

    On his surrender in Las Vegas, Buford Furrow announced his actions were a "wake-up call" to America to kill Jews.

    The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that he had previously scouted three other Jewish institutions before attacking the Jewish Community Centre.

    The attack sent a shiver through America, and led to fears that the age-old devil of anti-Semitism is on the rise again.

    In fact, the Anti-Defamation League says the numbers of attacks against Jews have dropped in the last five years from 2,000 to around 1,600 a year.

    But in the last six weeks, there have been three arson attacks on synagogues in northern California and a shooting rampage against Orthodox Jews in Chicago.

    This attack was yet more emotive because it involved children and the man has not disguised his links to the murky world of white supremacy.

    Conspiracy theories

    Buford Furrow was connected to the north-west based Aryan Nations, which along with a handful of other such groups spreads its catch-all conspiracy theories over the Internet.

    Members belong to brotherhoods like the Phineas Priesthood, which promotes violence against Jews, blacks or gays.

    The groups are linked by a pseudo-theology called "Christian Identity" a racist movement that has around 50,000 followers.

    It says the Jews are spawns of the devil and must be eliminated if true Christianity is to prosper.

    Christian Identity remains a fringe movement, but it is violent attacks like this one that lead America into much soul-searching; a few point out that it is not just gun control but freedom of speech that should be re-examined.

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