(JTA) — The murder of a Jewish businessman in Uruguay marks the arrival of Islamist terrorism from the Middle East to Latin America, a Jewish group said.
“The murderer’s cry of ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) points to the transplantation of Islamist terrorism from the Middle East to Latin America,” Shimon Samuels, the director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a letter to Uruguay’s president, Tabare Vazquez.
Samuels also wrote: “From the knife to the bullet to the bomb is the terrorist route exposed by the assassinated AMIA Prosecutor, Alberto Nisman.” He added that “Gaza has no place in Uruguay.”
David Fremd, 55, was murdered in the small town of Paysandu on March 8. His alleged killer, an Uruguayan named Carlos Omar Peralta Lopez, 35, is under arrest. Lopez, who adopted the Islamic name of Abdullah Omar, told authorities the day after the murder, “I killed a Jew following Allah’s order,” according to El Observador newspaper.
On Saturday, a demonstration in memory of Fremd was held in Paysandu. France, through its embassy in Uruguay, condemned the attack, as did the Uruguayan Catholic Church.
According to a Wiesenthal Center representative in Latin America, Ariel Gelbung, “a hemispheric approach is necessary to keep the Middle East out of the Americas.”
This kind of anti-Semitism “is uncharacteristic for Uruguay,” according to Dina Siegel Vann, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “The violent attack demonstrates again that vile hatred of Jews transcends borders. AJC stands with our Uruguayan Jewish partners, who, together with government authorities, must now be ever more vigilant in ensuring Jewish security and safety.”
The attack by an individual comes in a region that has seen deadly bombings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish center in 1994. Iran through the Hezbollah terrorist group has been accused of plotting those attacks, though no one has been brought to justice. Nisman charged that the Argentine government was involved in covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing. He was found shot to death in January 2015 in his Buenos Aires apartment; the official cause of death has yet to be determined.
The new modality of anti-Semitic attack is expected to be included on the agenda when more than 400 global Jewish leaders meet in Buenos Aires at the Special Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress from Tuesday to Thursday in conjunction with a meeting of the WJC Executive Committee.
“What happened on Tuesday has become an alert situation not only for the Jewish community of Uruguay, but for the Jewish world as a whole,” Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, the regional branch of WJC, told JTA.