In recent days sixteen attempts have been made against Gypsy families. The modus operandi was similar in the majority of the cases. Gypsies in small villages live at the ends of the row of houses. Whoever wanted to do them harm usually picked the very last house in the village, beyond which there was a forested area where the culprits could easily disappear. They threw Molotov cocktails into the targeted house. Fortunately the Molotov cocktail attacks caused only minor damage to the houses and no personal injury. But two attacks with different profiles resulted in death.
The first case, seemingly a juiced-up version of the standard Molotov cocktail attack, involved a combination of Molotov cocktails and guns. The perpetrators threw a couple of Molotov cocktails into the house, causing a serious fire. When the inhabitants ran out of the house, the assailants shot two of them dead. While they were on their crime spree for good measure they threw another Molotov cocktail at a nearby house, but that didn't do any damage. The victims were buried a few days ago with the minister of justice in attendance.
The second case doesn't fit the pattern of the village attacks. Two days ago in the eastern, poor part of Pécs a Gypsy family was watching television: father, mother, and four children. The smallest was two years old. She was sleeping at the feet of her parents who were lying in bed. A hand grenade was thrown into the room through the window. The two adults were killed. Miraculously the two-year-old was unharmed and the other three children received only minor injuries. I understand that the four children have been taken in by relatives.
The spokesman for the Pécs police somewhat hastily announced that the case has nothing to do with the victims' ethnicity. This may be the case, but it sure doesn't look too good to announce such a verdict before a thorough investigation. The police chief of Hungary was stuck with the task of trying to explain away the premature verdict of the local spokesman.
Those who rule out ethnic conflict suspect the attacks to be the handiwork of usurers who might be Gypsies themselves. The poverty-stricken Gypsies are often in such financial straits that they have to turn to people who lend them money at an exorbitant rate. When they are in default the loansharks, the quintessential "not nice guys," lose patience. But two counterpoints. First, why after a long period of quiet the sudden urge to kill people who owe them money, not to mention the folly of trying to collect from the dead. Second, what self-respecting loanshark uses Molotov cocktails when we all know from the movies about, shall we say, more targeted attacks.
Police Chief József Bencze said in an interview today that the police hypothesis is that the cases are related; more importantly he indicated that they are close to solving these cases. We have no idea about the course of their investigation. Those who suspect racism as a motive point to the verbal attacks on Gypsies by the extreme right, the Jobbik and its auxiliary, the Hungarian Guard. Perhaps in a few days we will know more.