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Search On for Synagogue Arsonists

June 19, 1999

SACRAMENT0, Calif. (AP) _ Federal agents from across the West on Saturday hunted for the arsonists who torched three synagogues and caused about $1 million in damages that included the loss of a 5,000-volume library.

There were no arrests or suspects, but investigators said they were examining anti-Jewish fliers found at two of the crime scenes. They said leads were developing from calls coming into a federal hotline.

``It’s a wide variety. People who may have heard things, or seen things, or just have tips concerning people they think are involved. So, it’s a wide range,″ said FBI spokesman Nick Rossi.

Jim Adamcik of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said more than 100 federal agents were involved in the investigation. Adamcik, who is based in Dallas, said agents were called in from several western states.

Authorities declined to discuss specifics of the investigation. Adamcik said the first firefighters at the scene of two of the burned synagogues found containers that the arsonists may have used to hold fuel or chemicals, but he declined to elaborate.

He said federal agents had been divided into three teams and were collecting physical and photographic evidence at the synagogues.

Early Friday, arsonists torched the 150-year-old Congregation B’nai Israel near downtown, the oldest synagogue west of the Mississippi River, and two suburban synagogues, the Congregation Beth Sholem and the Kenesset Israel Torah Center.

The fires happened within minutes of each other shortly after 3 a.m.

The heaviest damage was reported at B’nai Israel, a Reform synagogue in the affluent Land Park district, where thousands of books, some of them hundreds of years old, and hundreds of videotapes were lost in the flames. Damages were estimated at $800,000, but Rossi said that figure could rise.

A flier blaming the ``International Jewsmedia″ for the war in Kosovo was found at the Kenesset Israel Torah Center.

``We are Slavs, we will never allow the International Jew World Order to take our Land,″ the flier read. ``We fight to keep Serbia free forever.″

A clergyman for Sacramento’s only Serbian church denied any link to the fires and denounced the arsonists.

``Our church and our people have nothing to do with this act of terror, this act of hate,″ said the Rev. Dobrivoje Milunovic of the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Assumption. ``Our prayers and thoughts are with the members of the Jewish congregations whose temples have been burned.″

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