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Bolivian Raids on Chabad House 'Unexplainable'

Bolivian police raided and forcibly closed a Chabad House this week. It is unclear if any Israeli tourists were arrested in the incident.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 4/23/2009, 9:19 PM

Israel News Photo: (file)

Several times this week, Bolivian police have forcibly closed a Chabad House in an area popular with foreign backpackers. A Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that there were no Israeli citizens caught up in the raids, but other reports indicated that several Israelis were arrested.

The Chabad House targeted by Bolivian law enforcement is located in Rurrenabaque, in the northeastern part of the country. Rabbi Aharon Fraiman, a Chabad emissary in the town, told the Chabad.info website that local police have not presented any official closure order, nor have they provided a reason for the raids. The rabbi further claimed that several Israelis were arrested by police and that one of them had already been kicked out of the country.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the raid "unexplainable" and said that the developing incident "is preoccupying [the Foreign Ministry]". However, he emphasized in a conversation with Israel National News that his office currently has no information on any Israeli citizens taken into custody.

A deportation order would have required some formal contact with Israel, according to Palmor, but there has been no such request from Bolivian officials.

Bolivia cut off diplomatic relations with Israel in early 2009, in the wake of Israel's Operation Cast Lead against the jihadist regime in Gaza.

According to Rabbi Fraiman's statements to Chabad.info, local rumors in Bolivia have it that the Chabad House was targeted in a drug raid or in connection with an assassination plot targeting Bolivian President Evo Morales.

On Sunday Morales accused the United States embassy in La Paz of being behind a plot to kill him. Last week, three men accused of conspiring against the government of Bolivia were shot to death by police in a hotel in the city of Santa Cruz. The three were of Bolivian, Irish and Romanian nationality. Two other people, a Bolivian-Croatian and a Hungarian, were arrested.