Bulgarian neo-Nazis attack Muslims during prayer
The Czech Press Agency and news server ČT24.cz report that on Friday in Sofia, promoters of the Bulgarian extremist party Ataka ("Attack") assaulted Bulgarian Turkish Muslims during prayers in front of a local mosque. The extremists beat the Muslims with sticks, threw eggs at them, took possession of several prayer rugs and set them on fire. The violence caused multiple injuries on both sides as well as to intervening police officers. Police arrested at least one extremist, according to wire services.
The neo-Nazis attacked at the moment the Muslims knelt to pray. Despite rapid police intervention, there were many scuffles between the two camps and many injured, including five police officers. The ultra-nationalists are complaining that one of their MPs was among the injured after being struck in the face with a rock. Volen Siderov, the head of Ataka, asked Bulgarian Interior Minister Cvetan Cvetanov in Parliament to order the arrest of "the Islamists who were the first to throw stones." Bulgaria's minority center-right government is dependent on the support of Attack MPs during parliamentary votes.
However, Anastas Anastasov, Vice-Chair of the Bulgarian Parliament from the right-wing "Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria" (GERB) party, defended the police intervention against the radicals, emphasizing that religiously-motivated unrest cannot be tolerated in the 21st century. Anastasov pointed out that Sophia's historical center intentionally and symbolically includes a mosque, a Catholic church, an Orthodox cathedral and a synagogue in proximity to one another.
Today a mosque in Kurdjali, southeastern Bulgaria, had to be closed for prayers after a bomb threat was made against it. About 10 % of the Bulgarian population is of Turkish origin, most of whom currently follow Islam. The majority of Bulgarian Turkish Muslims live in the southeast of the country and their political party, the DPS, is represented in the Bulgarian Parliament, where it is in the opposition.