Moscow -- A knife-wielding man shouting "I will kill Jews!" attacked a synagogue in downtown Moscow Wednesday, slashing and stabbing at least eight people before the son of a rabbi wrestled him to the ground, officials and eyewitnesses said.
Witnesses said the shaven-headed attacker yelled "Heil Hitler! as he aimed at victims' necks, heads or torsos in what appeared to be a well-planned attack.
The attack at the Chabad Bronnaya synagogue came amid an increase in racist crimes and hate-group activity in Russia. Jewish leaders said it should send a message to Russian authorities and the public to fight prejudice.
"If today's act does not sound an alarm, society faces grave danger," said Borukh Gorin, chief spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. "Fascism will come knocking at the door of every citizen if we do not take serious measures now."
Among the eight men wounded were an American and an Israeli, along with a man from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan, chief Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev told reporters outside the synagogue. He said the attacker "shouted words that showed he was motivated by ethnic and religious hatred."
Zuyev said the suspect, a Muscovite identified as Alexander Koptsev, born in 1985, was in custody and faced charges including hate-based attempted murder. It was not immediately clear whether he was a member of any anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi groups, Zuyev said.
Gorin said the attacker had a shaved head and wore a leather jacket. Another spokesman for the Jewish federation said the assailant shouted "I will kill people, I will kill Jews!" after bursting into the synagogue complex at about 5:30 p.m., when there were several dozen people in the building.
Jewish leaders and witnesses said the assailant attacked a guard who tried to stop him, then stabbed people in or near a prayer room on the first floor before continuing his rampage upstairs.
"This was not a game, he was out to kill," said Iosif Ostrovsky, a rabbinical student who said he saw the assailant stab several people, aiming at their upper bodies in what he called a "well planned attack." He said the man also shouted "Heil Hitler!"
A kitchen worker who gave her name only as Svetlana said the man assaulted people in a downstairs kitchen area after entering the building.
"I saw people lying on the floor, cut and bloodied," she said, adding that the man had pulled the knife from a sheath hung around his neck.
Officials and witness said a son of the synagogue's rabbi, Yitzhak Kogan, wrestled the attacker to the ground and held him until police arrived.
"I grabbed him by the neck and put him on the floor," said 18-year-old Iosif Kogan, his checked shirt flecked with dried blood as he spoke to reporters crowded outside. He said several other people struggled to disarm the man as he tried to stab them.
Russian news reports said the country's top prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, was taking control of the investigation. The Jewish federation said Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, would cut short a trip to Israel and return to Russia because of the attack.
"We hope that law enforcement agencies and the Russian authorities will take real measures so that this will never be repeated," Lazar told NTV television in footage from Israel.
The stabbing is the latest in a growing series of incidents apparently involving skinheads or racist groups in Russia. Rights groups have warned that hate groups have grown substantially in recent years, with their anger targeted mainly at foreigners and dark-skinned immigrants from the poorer former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Many rights groups also say prosecutors routinely downplay hate crimes, choosing to bring less serious charges.
The dominant Russian Orthodox Church, which has made efforts to reach out to Jewish officials in a country with a history of pogroms and anti-Semitism, condemned the attack and called for action by the state and society to stem hate crimes.