Hungarian police have detained four men on suspicion of carrying out
attacks in which at least six Roma, or Gypsies as they are also called,
were killed. The violence has
underscored growing ethnic tension in the European Union nation.
Hungarian police say the men, aged 28 to 42, were captured Friday in the eastern city of Debrecen on suspicion of involvement in deadly attacks against Gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma.
National police chief Jozsef Bencze has told reporters that evidence seized during house searches and at different crime scenes link the suspects to acts of deadly violence within the past year.
He says police have appropriate evidence to link the men to the killings. Bencze adds that racism appears to have been the main motive. He has described the attacks, as the "biggest, most complicated and most serious series of murders in the history of Hungarian criminology."
The killings were carried out mainly in small countryside villages predominantly settled by Roma.
In February, in what was seen as one of the most brutal attacks on Roma, police said Robert Csorba and his five-year-old son were shot dead when they tried to flee their home that was set on fire.
His mother, Erzsebet Csorba, lives next to the destroyed home where she lost her son and grandson, on a muddy road in the Hungarian village of Tatarszentgyorgy, 65 kilometers outside Budapest.
She tells VOA that she will never forget what happened that night.
"I woke up from hearing three shots outside in the garden," said Csorba. "And I woke up my husband also because I wanted to go with him to see what happened. When we came out here outside of the door, we saw immediately the burning house of my son."
"So I ran around the house and here on the side of the house there is a little forest and I found my son. "They shot me down, they shot me down," were the last words that he said. And we also found the little boy. His whole small body was full with holes from the bullets. He was still breathing," she added.
In one of the cases this month, a 45-year-old Roma woman was killed in the eastern village of Kisleta and her 13-year-old daughter was seriously injured when police say gunmen broke into their home at night and shot the victims in their sleep.
The Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center, or ERRC, suggests that the attacks to which detained suspects are linked are no isolated incidents. ERRC Programmes Coordinator Tara Bedard has told VOA News there have been dozens of attacks against the approximately 800,000 Roma living in Hungary.
"There's been 30 attacks in the last two years. And that we know off, I believe that seven people have died," said Bedard. "I think the most frequent type of attack that has been occurring in the past is people showing up with Molotov cocktails and throwing them into or at the homes of Roma in several towns of the country.
Some human rights groups and Roma leaders say the attacks come at a time when right-wing extremists are searching for scapegoats for Hungary's current economic crisis.
Far right groups targeting what they call "Gypsy crime" have become increasingly popular in Hungary, adding to international concerns over ethnic tensions in this European Union nation.