Alexa

2nd arrest made in US synagogue firebombings

2nd arrest made in US synagogue firebombings

A second man was charged Friday in a series of attacks on synagogues in New Jersey that included the firebombing of a house of worship where a rabbi and several family members were sleeping upstairs.
The attacks in January kept Jewish residents of the religiously diverse communities of New Jersey's Bergen County, outside New York, on edge for weeks, and prompted authorities to institute round-the-clock police patrols of houses of worship and community centers.
Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said 19-year-old Aakash Dalal was the instigator in the firebombings that another man, Anthony Graziano, is accused of carrying out. Dalal, however, is not believed to have participated in the acts themselves.
Both men grew up in the northern New Jersey town of Lodi, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of New York City, and met in middle school. Molinelli described their relationship as one of teacher and student, with Dalal playing the role of teacher.
Dalal was arrested Friday morning and was being held on $2.5 million bail. His first court appearance was scheduled for Monday. He is charged with conspiracy, aggravated arson, bias intimidation and criminal mischief.
"He is obviously upset," attorney Chris DiLorenzo, representing Dalal, said. "He is an intelligent young man and is mainly concerned about himself and his family at this time."
For the first time, authorities linked the two firebombings and another attempted firebombing with two earlier spray painting incidents at synagogues in the area. Both men are accused of spray painting the buildings, while Graziano is believed to have carried out the firebombings himself, with encouragement from Dalal.
Molinelli said a series of emails and texts between the two showed them discussing how to carry out the bombings.
In one attack on Jan. 3, members of Congregation K'Hal Adath Jeshuran in nearby Paramus smelled gas and called authorities. Fire and police officials found that an accelerant had been used to start a fire behind the building. The fire had burned itself out, and no one was hurt.
Eight days later, police said Molotov cocktails were thrown at Congregation Beth El in the town of Rutherford, igniting a fire in the second-floor bedroom of a rabbi's home. The rabbi, his wife, five children and his parents were sleeping at the time and escaped serious injury.
Graziano has pleaded not guilty to charges including nine counts of attempted murder. He initially was held on $5 million bail but that was later reduced by a judge to $2.5 million.