German anti-foreigner crimes organised via social media

2016-01-11 21:06
German police search a right-wing demonstrator outside the main station in Cologne. (AP)

German police search a right-wing demonstrator outside the main station in Cologne. (AP)

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Berlin - German police are treating the latest in a series of attacks on asylum seekers as "anti-foreigner crimes" and believe that they were organised via social media, a spokesperson said on Monday.

The fact that right-wing extremists were strategically using the internet to plan indiscriminate attacks against "non-Germans" is "an alarming signal that we are taking very seriously", police spokesperson Norbert Wagner said.

Wagner was referring to two incidents that took place in Cologne on Sunday in which six Pakistanis and one Syrian asylum seeker were attacked by groups of "right-wing extremists from the hooligan, rocker and bouncer scenes".

Two of the six Pakistanis were brought to hospital with serious injuries after as many as 20 people attacked them at just before 19:00 (18:00 GMT) on Sunday near Cologne's main train station.

About 20 minutes later, a group of five men attacked a Syrian man at a nearby location. He was injured, but didn't require medical treatment.

Police stopped and searched 153 people before and after the attacks after receiving tip-offs that right-wing extremists were forming vigilante groups to police the streets following the mass sexual violence in Cologne and other German cities.

Though Chancellor Angela Merkel and several politicians from her coalition have warned against blanket suspicion of foreigners - many of whom are seeking refuge from war - Muslim groups have reported a spike in anti-Islam sentiment.

"We are witnessing a new dimension of hate," Aiman Mazyek, the head of the Central Council for Muslims in Germany, told regional newspaper Koelner Stadtanzeiger on Monday, adding that the number of attacks against its members were on the rise.

Separately, a Jewish man wearing a skullcap in the northern German town of Puttgarden was attacked and robbed late on Sunday by two refugees from Syria and Afghanistan respectively.

The two men, who were arrested by police shortly after the attack, had been trying unsuccessfully to cross Germany's northern border into Denmark.

The news comes after comments from the interior minister of North Rhine Westphalia, where Cologne is located, confirming that the perpetrators were "almost exclusively" of a North African or Arab background further inflamed an ongoing migration debate.

A total of 516 police complaints - 40% of them related to sexual violence - have been filed in Cologne, prompting politicians to call for increased security, the expulsion of criminal asylum seekers and the reduction of migrant flows going forward.

Of the 19 suspects identified by police, 10 are asyslum seekers and nine are in Germany illegally, according to a report submitted to a parliamentary committee looking into the crimes. None have residences in Cologne and four are currently in police custody.

Read more on:    angela merkel  |  germany  |  migrants  |  social networks

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