In the latest terrorist incident against Jews worldwide, the leader of the Jewish community in Ankara, Turkey, has been wounded in a car-bomb attack.
Yuda Yurum, who has spent time as a visiting professor at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and heads the chemistry department at Hacettepe University, was wounded when his car exploded as the entered it Wednesday morning.
He is recovering in a nearby hospital, having suffered minor injuries and singed hair.
A previously unheard of Islamic fundamentalist group, the Turkey Idealist Sharia Commandos’ Army, has claimed responsibility for the bombing, according to the Anatolia news agency in Turkey. Turkish police have not detained any suspects.
An Israeli official who was in contact with members of the Ankara community said people there “were terrorized” as a result of the attack.
Turkish Jewish leaders, however, were quick to downplay the community’s fears.
“We’re quite upset about it, but such things happen all over the world. There is no sense of panic whatsoever,” Hanri Yashova, vice president of the Turkish Jewish community, said in a phone interview from Ankara.
The Jewish community of Ankara includes about 200 Jews. It is significantly smaller than Istanbul’s Jewish community, where the majority of Turkey’s estimated 23,000 Jews live.
The attack against Yurum comes against a backdrop of threats he received last year after an Islamic fundamentalist newspaper, Zaman, harshly criticized him for his role as a Jewish leader.
Yurum requested — and received — increased police protection after those threats, but has since withdrawn the request.
The attack also comes in the wake of an appeal from a Turkish prosecutor requesting the death penalty for the suspects convicted of attempting to kill Jak Kamhi, a prominent Turkish Jewish businessman.
The criminals, who in 1993 fired rockets into Kamhi’s car in Istanbul, have already been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but prosecutors this week asked a judge to upgrade the sentence.
The convicted assailants reportedly belong to an Islamic fundamentalist organization, but it is unclear whether there is any connection between the appeal and the car bombing in Ankara.
Islamic fundamentalists have been gaining significant political power in recent years. At the same time, the country has been victimized by a rash of Islamic fundamentalist violence.
In 1986, Palestinian terrorists burst into the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul and murdered 22 Sabbath worshipers, and in 1992, Ehud Saden, the security chief of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, was killed in a car bombing.
Terror attacks have not been limited to Jews. Journalist Ugur Mumcu was killed by a car bomb in 1993, and a U.S. soldier, Victor Marwik, was murdered in 1991.
According to Turkish state radio, the group that claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack said it was carried out to protest the extradition of Turkish ultranationalist Isa Armagan from Germany.
Armagan, who reportedly has Islamic fundamentalist ties, was convicted in 1979 of murdering five leftist students in Turkey. He escaped to Germany in the 1980s and was extradited to Turkey last week, where he is being held by Turkish authorities.
Jewish groups have expressed concern over an emerging pattern of anti-Semitic violence in a country that has traditionally been regarded as a safe haven for Jews.
“Unfortunately, these kinds of attacks, while not everyday occurrences, happen all too often in Turkey,” said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.