German court convicts 93-year old man for Nazi crimes

By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) – A Hamburg court convicted a 93-year old German man of helping to murder 5,232 prisoners, many of them Jewish, at a Nazi concentration camp in World War Two and gave him a suspended two-year sentence in one of the last cases against Nazi-era crimes.

Rolled into the courtroom in a wheelchair and hiding his face behind a blue folder, Bruno D. acknowledged he had been an SS guard in the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk in what was then occupied Poland, but he said his presence did not amount to guilt.

This did not convince the court in Hamburg which found him guilty on Thursday of being involved in the killings from August 1944 to April 1945.

“How could you get used to the horror?” asked judge Anne Meier-Goering as she read the verdict.

About 65,000 people, including many Jews, were murdered or died at Stutthof, the museum’s website says. Prosecutors argued that many were shot in the back of the head or gassed with the lethal Zyklon B gas.

As Bruno D. was only 17-or-18 years old at the time of the crimes, he was tried in a youth court and sessions were limited to two to three hours per day due to his frail health. Prosecutors had called for a prison sentence of three years.

In his final testimony to the court, he apologized for the suffering of victims but stopped short of taking responsibility.

“I would like to apologize to all the people who have gone through this hell of insanity and to their relatives and survivors,” he told the court on Monday, broadcaster NDR and other media outlets reported.

Some 75 years after the Holocaust, the number of suspects is dwindling but prosecutors are still trying to bring individuals to justice. A landmark conviction in 2011 cleared the way to more prosecutions as working in a camp was for the first time found grounds for culpability with no proof of a specific crime.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Editing by Michelle Martin and Angus MacSwan)

Watchdog reports record number of anti-Semitic incidents in U.S. last year

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Jews in the United States suffered the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents last year since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting records 40 years ago, the racism watchdog said on Tuesday.

The 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2019 in the United States included deadly attacks by gunmen at a California Synagogue and a New Jersey kosher grocery store, and a fatal stabbing at a rabbi’s home in New York.

It marked a 12% rise from 1,879 incidents in 2018. Previously, the highest number was recorded in 1994, when the ADL reported multiple unsolved arsons, cross burnings and a drive-by shooting.

The group’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents from 2019 counted 1,127 cases of harassment, 61 cases of physical assaults and 919 instances of vandalism. More than half of the assaults took place in New York City.

“This was a year of unprecedented anti-Semitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate,” ADL Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt said.

In recent weeks the ADL has issued warnings of a continuing surge in incidents, saying conspiracy theories connected to the coronavirus outbreak could worsen anti-Semitism in the United States.

Greenblatt has also in the past partly blamed President Donald Trump for the rise in anti-Semitism, saying Trump should have done more to condemn incidents, including a far-right demonstration in Virginia in 2017 at which protesters chanted anti-Jewish slogans. One counter-protester was killed.

Among last year’s attacks, a gunman killed a worshiper and wounded three others during Sabbath services in Poway, California, near San Diego. Two gunmen killed a police officer and three bystanders before storming a kosher supermarket in New Jersey. Five people were wounded, one of whom later died, when an attacker broke into a rabbi’s house and stabbed Hanukkah celebrants in Rockland County, north of New York City.

In late 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

“We plan to work with members of Congress and other elected officials this year to ensure that funding is in place and that all states mandate Holocaust education, which can serve as an effective deterrent for future acts of hate,” the ADL CEO said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Graff)

Coronavirus crisis stoking anti-Semitism worldwide: report

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The coronavirus crisis is stirring anti-Semitism around the world, fuelled by centuries-old lies that Jews are spreading infection, researchers in Israel said on Monday.

The findings, in the annual report on Anti-Semitism Worldwide by the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University, showed an 18% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 over the previous year.

In the first few months of 2020, far-right politicians in the United States and Europe and ultra-conservative pastors have seized upon the health crisis and its resulting economic hardship to foster hatred against Jews, the researchers said.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.

“The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the mediaeval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies,” he said during the report’s release.

Kantor said that as unemployment soars due to lockdowns to contain the coronavirus, “more people may seek out scapegoats, spun for them by conspiracy theorists”.

He called on world leaders to address the problem of growing extremism “already at our door”.

Severe and violent incidents against Jews worldwide rose to 456 in 2019 from 387 in 2018, and seven Jews were killed in anti-Semitic attacks last year, the report found.

In 2019, 122 major violent incidents against Jews were reported in Britain, followed by 111 in the United States, 41 in France and Germany and 33 in Australia, according to the findings.

Kantor said there had been a consistent rise in anti-Semitism over the least few years, especially online, and in mainstream society, politics and media.

He said the increased use of social media during the health crisis could facilitate the spread of conspiracy theories, “providing simplistic answers for the growing anxiety among the general public”.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

As bigotry stirs globally, Bosnian Jews, Muslims recall lesson in tolerance

As bigotry stirs globally, Bosnian Jews, Muslims recall lesson in tolerance
By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia’s Jews and Muslims on Thursday marked the bicentenary of the rescue of a dozen Jews from an Ottoman-era governor’s jail, saying their liberation by Sarajevo Muslims is a great example of co-existence at a time of rising global sectarian hatred.

The 1819 rescue, which happened during a Muslim uprising, and consequent removal of corrupt Turkish governor Mehmed Ruzdi Pasha is a holiday for Sarajevo’s Jews, known as Purim di Saray. The governor had sought a huge ransom to spare the Jews’ lives.

The event was marked by a joint exhibition and conference depicting the events and celebrating nearly 500 years of peaceful coexistence between Jews and their Muslim neighbors, as well as between Jews and Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.

“Bosnian Muslims and Jews are one body,” said Bosnia’s Muslim top cleric Husein Kavazovic.

“Amid the ever rising evil of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia … we are renewing our pledge that we will remain good neighbors who will watch over each other as we did in the past.”

The Muslim rebellion was recorded by renowned Sarajevo Jewish historian Mose Rafael Attias, also known as Zeki Effendi, in his book Sarajevo Megillah.

The book’s title is a reference to the Book of Esther, which is read aloud during the Jewish holiday of Purim. The holiday celebrates the Jews’ salvation from genocide in ancient Persia and is normally held in about March.

Attias studied Islam and mediaeval Persian literature and was a passionate interfaith advocate.

His tombstone, which has epitaphs in Bosnian, Hebrew and Turkish, the latter inscribed in Arabic script, has been renovated at the town’s Jewish cemetery as part of the Purim bicentenary.

“The tombstone itself is a proof of Sarajevo’s multiculturalism,” Eli Tauber, an author and historian, told Reuters. “Close links between our communities are unique. The way we mark Purim is also unprecedented and could serve as a role model to the rest of the world.”

Jews have played a significant role in Sarajevo’s cultural and economic life for 450 years. Expelled after the Christian re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula, they found sanctuary in the city, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

At the height of the city’s influence, Sarajevo had eight synagogues serving some 12,000 Jews. But most of them were killed during World War Two, when the city was occupied by Nazi Germany. Fewer than 1,250 remained.

The community recovered somewhat in the post-war era but was dealt another blow with Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse and the subsequent siege of Sarajevo, the longest in modern history.

Before the Bosnian 1992-95 war, Sarajevo was a multi-ethnic melting pot – mosques, churches and synagogues standing virtually side by side. It afterwards become predominantly Muslim, but some 800 Jews living in the town remain an important part of its multi-ethnic identity.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela, Editing by William Maclean)

Gunman kills two in livestreamed attack at German synagogue

By Thomas Escritt and Stephan Schepers

BERLIN/HALLE, Germany (Reuters) – A gunman who denounced Jews opened fire outside a German synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, and killed two people as he livestreamed his attack.

Several German media outlets said the perpetrator acted alone on Wednesday in the eastern German city of Halle. He fatally shot a woman outside the synagogue and a man inside a nearby kebab shop.

Two other people were seriously injured, but regional broadcaster MDR said their condition was not critical.

Police said they had detained one person, reported by German magazines Spiegel and Focus Online to be a 27-year-old German named Stephan B. His full name cannot be published under German privacy laws.

Video broadcast on Amazon’s gaming subsidiary Twitch showed a young man with a shaven head first reciting a short statement in broken English while sitting in a parked car.

“I think the Holocaust never happened,” he began, before adding “feminism is the cause of decline in birth rates in the West” and mentioning mass immigration. He concluded: “The root of all these problems is the Jew”, before embarking on his shooting spree.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said Twitch “worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

The company later said its investigation suggested that “people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services,” but did not elaborate.

Reuters found copies and links to the footage posted on Twitter, 4chan and message boards focused on trolling and harassment, as well as multiple white supremacist channels on messaging app Telegram.

In the video, the man drove to the synagogue, found the gates shut and unsuccessfully sought to force the gates open. He then shot several rounds at a woman passerby.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

“We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that about 70 to 80 people were inside the synagogue observing Yom Kippur, known as the Day of Atonement which is marked by fasting and solemn prayer.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, without citing its source, that when he was detained the suspect had a wound to the neck and that security authorities suspected he had attempted suicide.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government voiced outrage over the attack on Yom Kippur and urged tougher action against anti-Semitic violence.

Merkel visited a Berlin synagogue as around 200 people, some holding Israeli flags and candles, held a vigil outside. Merkel’s spokesman tweeted: “We must oppose any form of anti-Semitism.”

‘CALM, LIKE A PROFESSIONAL’

Rifat Tekin, who worked at the Halle kebab outlet, said he was making a kebab for two construction workers when a perpetrator threw an explosive at the restaurant before shooting.

“He was very calm, like a professional,” Tekin told n-tv television. “He didn’t say anything. He just kept coming and shooting … I was hiding behind the salad counter.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims’ families and said in a Twitter post: “The terrorist attack against the community in Halle in Germany on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our nation, is yet another expression that anti-Semitism is growing in Europe.”

“I call upon the authorities in Germany to continue to work determinedly against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which during World War Two was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Around 200,000 Jews live today in the country of around 83 million people.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the shooting was anti-Semitic, adding: “According to the federal prosecutors’ office, there are enough indications that it was possibly a right-wing extremist motive.”

Despite comprehensive de-Nazification in the post-war era, fears of resurgent anti-Semitic hatred have never completely gone away, whether from fringe, far-right neo-Nazis or more recently from Muslim immigrants.

Occasional past attacks have ranged from the scrawling of Nazi swastikas on gravestones to firebombings at synagogues and even several murders. In recent years, cases of assault or verbal abuse, in some cases directed against people wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps, have raised an outcry.

(Additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Joseph Nasr, Thomas Escritt, Riham Alkousaa, Gabi Sajonz-Grimm, Michelle Martin, Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul and Stephen Farrell; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown)

Synagogue attack sparks fear among Jews in Germany

By Joseph Nasr

BERLIN (Reuters) – As Jews left Yom Kippur prayers across Germany on Wednesday, they were jolted by word that an anti-Semitic gunman had attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle hours before, killing two people.

The news heightened fears of more anti-Semitic violence in a nation still scarred by the Holocaust and witnessing the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

“It’s very scary,” said Samuel Tsarfati, a 27-year-old stage director, as he left a Berlin synagogue with fellow French national Samuel Laufer.

The pair, who live and work in the German capital, had spent the holiest day in the Jewish calendar secluded in prayer and switched off their mobile phones for 25 hours of fasting.

Other members of Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community expressed similar alarm over the attack. After trying to blast into the Halle synogogue, a lone suspect killed a woman outside and a man in a nearby kebab shop.

“It’s not a coincidence it happened in east Germany. The far-right AfD is very strong there,” Tsarfati said. Leaders of the AfD, which made big gains in elections in two eastern states last month, condemned Wednesday’s attack in Halle.

Attacks on Jews rose by 20% last year and were mainly carried out by right-wing extremists. Even before the Halle shooting, a heavy police presence guarded the synagogue in the trendy suburb of Prenzlauer Berg where Tsarfati and Lauferis attended prayers.

Jews and German politicians have been particularly worried by comments by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD leader of eastern Thuringia state, that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is a “monument of shame” and that schools should highlight German suffering in World War Two.

“What happened today shows that the AfD should not be underestimated,” said Laufer. “AfD leaders like Hoecke don’t want to see that their words encourage some people to kill.”

Hoecke was among the AfD leaders to condemn the Halle attack.

The Halle gunman broadcast anti-Semitic comments before he opened fire. Several German media outlets said he acted alone although police have not confirmed this.

The far-right AfD entered the national parliament for the first time two years ago, riding a wave of anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome almost 1 million migrants. The party’s rise has alarmed Jewish leaders who condemn the party’s verbal attacks against Muslim migrants.

‘BLINDED BY HATRED’

Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Community in Munich, suggested that the AfD’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was contributing to an atmosphere of hate that encouraged political violence.

“This scary attack makes it clear how fast words can become acts of political extremism,” she said in a statement. “I’d be interested to know what that AfD has to say about such excesses, for which it had prepared the ground with its uncultured hate and incitement.”

At the gold-domed New Synagogue in Berlin’s city center about 200 people, including Muslim leaders, held a vigil, some carrying Israeli flags and others holding candles. Merkel visited the synagogue in the evening and took part in prayers.

Renate Keller, a 76-year-old attending the vigil with her husband, said the attack in Halle showed that Germany was not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

“It scares me that after the Holocaust some people have learned nothing from our history, which still weighs on us today,” she said. “People like the attacker have probably never met a Jew in their lives. They are just blinded by hatred.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned of the incendiary potential far-right politics.

“It shows that right-wing extremism is not only some kind of political development, but that it is highly dangerous and exactly the kind of danger that we have always warned against.”

mtpi

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Two killed in shooting at synagogue in Germany, suspects flee in hijacked car

By Stephan Schepers

HALLE, Germany (Reuters) – Two people were killed in shooting attacks on a synagogue and a kebab bistro in the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday and one suspect was arrested, but two others fled in a hijacked a car, officials said.

The violence occurred on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the calendar in Judaism when Jews fast, seeking atonement.

The two suspects on the loose headed out on a motorway that leads to Munich in the country’s south, according to the mayor of the town of Landsberg, adjacent to Halle. Gunfire was also heard in Landsberg, Focus Online reported.

A spokeswoman for the Halle municipal government said one shooting took place in front of the synagogue on Humboldt street and its accompanying cemetery, while a second burst of gunfire targeted the kebab shop in the city in the province of Saxony.

Max Privorozki, Halle’s Jewish community chairman, described how a gunman tried to shoot his way into the city’s synagogue.

“We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily-armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors,” he told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper. “The man looked like he was from the special forces…But our doors held.

“We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that about 70-80 people were inside the Humboldt street synagogue celebrating Yom Kippur.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government voiced outrage over the attack on Yom Kippur and urged tougher action against anti-Semitic violence.

“That on the Day of Atonement a synagogue was shot at hits us in the heart,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter. “We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country.”

Anti-Semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which during World War Two was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Around 200,000 Jews live today in Germany, a country of around 83 million.

EMERGENCY

Another Halle city spokesman said an emergency situation had been declared and all residents advised to stay at home. He said that emergency services and police were evacuating people from the synagogue.

Broadcasters showed images of an alleged perpetrator dressed in combat garb including a helmet.

“Our forces have detained one person,” local police said on Twitter. “Please nonetheless remain vigilant.” Earlier, police tweeted: “According to initial findings, two people were killed in Halle. There were several shots.”

The identities of the victims were not immediately known.

An unnamed eyewitness told local media the assailant at the synagogue was dressed in combat gear including a helmet, and had thrown several explosive devices into the cemetery.

Another eyewitness, Conrad Roesler, described the attack on the kebab bistro. “He had an assault rifle and a helmet and suddenly he threw what looked like a grenade. It bounced off a door frame…Suddenly he picked up the rifle and fired at the shop…I hid in the toilet,” Roesler told n-tv television.

Regional public broadcaster MDR broadcast images of a man in combat clothing firing shots along a street from behind a car.

National rail operator Deutsche Bahn said the main train station in Halle had been closed.

“This is terrible news from Halle and I hope very much that the police catch the perpetrator, or perpetrators, as quickly as possible,” federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, interrupting a regular government news conference.

The federal prosecutors office said it was taking over the investigation, a procedural step which indicates a possible link to terrorism under German law.

In Berlin, the state interior senator advised police to step up security at Jewish institutions in the German capital.

Despite comprehensive de-Nazification in the post-war era, fears of resurgent anti-Semitic hatred have never completely gone away, whether from fringe, far-right neo-Nazis or more recently from Muslim immigrants.

Occasional past attacks have ranged from the scrawling of Nazi swastikas on gravestones to firebombings at synagogues and even several murders. In recent years, cases of assault or verbal abuse, in some cases directed against people wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps, have raised an outcry.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Joseph Nasr, Thomas Escritt and Riham Alkousaa, Gabi Sajonz-Grimm and Michelle Martin; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Thomas Escritt and Mark Heinrich)

Portals to history and conflict: the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Jews, Muslims and Christians pass daily through the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City, on their way to and from prayers or simply to go about their everyday business in one of the most politically sensitive spots on earth.

There are eight gates – seven are open and one is sealed – along the Old City walls that were built in the 16th century by Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

It’s always busy at Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Muslim quarter, and at Jaffa Gate, facing west toward the Mediterranean, where local residents and tourists mix in markets lining stone alleyways.

Lion’s Gate – two pairs of heraldic lions are carved on the archway – is also known as St. Stephen’s Gate. It faces east, toward ancient Jericho. It is often crowded with Muslim worshippers after prayers at al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Many Jewish worshippers take another route to Judaism’s nearby Western Wall. They pass through the Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the holy place, and Jewish families on their way to celebrate a 13-year-old son’s Bar Mitzvah can be spotted making their way to the wall.

Security is always tight in a volatile area at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli police patrol and closed circuit TV cameras monitor the passageways of the Old City.

Israel views all of Jerusalem, including the walled Old City that it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as its “eternal and indivisible” capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, where the Old City is located, as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Stopping America’s next hate-crime killers on social media is no easy task

By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The pattern is clear: Hate-filled manifestos posted on websites populated by white supremacists, followed by gun attacks against blacks, Jews, Muslims, or Latin American immigrants.

In some cases, the killers use their internet posts to praise previous attacks by other white nationalists. And after new assaults, the manifestos get passed around, feeding the cycle of propaganda and violence.

Following the racially-motivated attack that killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump said he wants police to do more to stop extremists who are active online before they can turn to murder.

But identifying and stopping the extremists who plan to launch an attack is much easier said than done.

Law enforcement experts say that the constitutional right of free speech means police cannot arrest someone simply on the basis of extremist rants online, unless they make a specific threat.

“You couldn’t just open a case on the words,” said Dave Gomez, a retired FBI agent who has worked on cases of both international and domestic terrorism.

“Posting something like that on the internet doesn’t harm anybody,” he said, adding that police can only successfully investigate a white supremacist when you can “connect his words to an overt act.”

The White House will discuss violent extremism online with representatives from a number of internet and technology companies on Friday, according to a White House spokesman.

Social media companies are reluctant to spy on or censor their users, though increasingly they are responding to demands that they take down obvious incitements to violence. And civil rights groups warn that tighter monitoring can lead to unconstitutional abuses of power

Another former FBI agent, who asked not to be identified, said closer monitoring of extremists’ websites would anyway be unlikely to prevent new mass shootings.

“There is not enough manpower. There is not enough technology to properly monitor the internet,” he said. “This is the number one thing we always say in law enforcement: ‘You can’t stop crazy. You can’t even predict crazy.’”

Trump said after the mass shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that he would ask the Justice Department to work with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies “to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”

Even before those attacks, The FBI in early July requested bids for a contractor to help it detect national security threats by trawling through social media sites.

“The use of social media platforms by terrorist groups, domestic threats, foreign intelligence services, and criminal organizations to further their illegal activity creates a demonstrated need for tools to properly identify the activity and react appropriately,” the FBI said in its request.

PRESSURE

Top law enforcement and domestic security officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand met with leading social media and internet companies in London last week, and pushed them to help authorities track suspicious users.

The government officials noted in an agenda paper for the meeting that some companies “deliberately design their systems in a way that precludes any form of access to content, even in cases of the most serious crimes.”

“Tech companies should include mechanisms in the design of their encrypted products and services whereby governments, acting with appropriate legal authority, can obtain access to data in a readable and usable format,” the agenda paper said.

A final statement from the meeting said little about encryption, however, and neither company nor government officials talked about what was discussed.

Facebook and Microsoft confirmed they attended but Google, which was invited, did not respond to a request for comment. Other attendees included Roblox, Snap and Twitter, the statement said.

FBI agents say that broad surveillance powers enacted by Congress in the wake of the Sept., 11, 2001 attacks helped them track international terrorist groups and stop people with links to foreign groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State before they could carry out crimes.

But they key law criminalizing “material support” for terrorism does not apply to investigations or prosecutions of domestic terrorists, such as violent white supremacists, that commit hate crimes.

This week, the FBI Agents Association called on Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime in order to give agents more tools.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which promotes internet civil liberties, said the sheer amount of users posting aggressive content online makes it almost impossible to identify and track the people who pose an actual threat.

“Even though it seems like there is another mass shooting every week, if you are looking at the number of mass shooters versus the total population, it’s still a tiny, tiny number which means this is still a very rare event,” said Jeremy Gillula, the group’s tech products director. “It’s like trying to predict where lightning is going to strike.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Remains of hundreds of Jews unearthed in Nazi-era mass grave in Belarus

A soldier from a special "search battalion" of Belarus Defence Ministry takes part in the exhumation of a mass grave containing the remains of about 730 prisoners of a former Jewish ghetto, discovered at a construction site in the centre of Brest, Belarus February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

BREST, Belarus (Reuters) – Soldiers in Belarus have unearthed the bones of hundreds of people shot during World War Two from a mass grave discovered at the site of a ghetto where Jews lived under the Nazis.

The grave was uncovered by chance last month on a construction site in a residential area in the center of Brest near the Polish border.

A soldier from a special "search battalion" of Belarus Defence Ministry takes part in the exhumation of a mass grave containing the remains of about 730 prisoners of a former Jewish ghetto, discovered at a construction site in the centre of Brest, Belarus February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

A soldier from a special “search battalion” of Belarus Defence Ministry takes part in the exhumation of a mass grave containing the remains of about 730 prisoners of a former Jewish ghetto, discovered at a construction site in the centre of Brest, Belarus February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Soldiers wearing white masks on Tuesday sifted through the site with spades, trowels and their gloved hands to collect the bones. They also found items such as leather shoes that had not rotted.

Dmitry Kaminsky, a soldier leading the unit, said they had exhumed 730 bodies so far, but could not be sure how many more would be found.

“It’s possible they go further under the road. We have to cut open the tarmac road. Then we’ll know,” he said.

Some of the skulls bore bullet holes, he said, suggesting the victims had been executed by a shot to the back of the head.

Belarus, a former Soviet republic, was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War Two and tens of thousands of its Jews were killed by the Nazis.

The site of the mass grave served from December 1941 to October 1942 as part of a ghetto, areas created by the Nazis to segregate Jews and sometimes other minorities from other city dwellers. Brest was part of Poland before the war.

The remains were discovered when builders began to lay the foundations for an apartment block.

Local authorities want to bury the bodies in a ceremony at a cemetery in the north of the city.

“We want to be sure that there are no more mass graves here,” said Alla Kondak, a local culture official.

(Reporting by Reuters TV; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Robin Pomeroy)