Ultra-Orthodox London Guards Draw Praise for Protecting Muslim Community

Crime-fighting group cooperates closely with police; Kerry praises `remarkable courage.'

Members of the Jewish "Shomrim" security patrol team are pictured in north London on August 27, 2014.
AFP

A group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish guards in London have drawn praise in their home city, and from America's top diplomat, for their efforts to keep the peace and particularly to protect the Muslim community, a media report says.

Responding to a surge in crime, the 25-member haredi Shomrim (Hebrew for "guards") formed in 2008 in the north London community of Stamford Hill, AFP reports.

The police initially were concerned that the group would act like vigilantes, AFP reports. But the police and the Shomrim now cooperate closely. And the group even caught the attention of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who cited the members' "remarkable courage," AFP reported.

In May 2013, a British soldier was murdered by a pair of Islamic extremists, which prompted anti-Muslim hate crimes, including firebombings of mosques, a member of the Shomrim told AFP.

The local council in Hackney, north London, where the killing took place, called on the Shomrim. They continue their patrols around mosques, particularly in the wake of the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, AFP reported.

The police train the Shomrim and provide them with stab-resistant vests to be worn on patrols, AFP reported.