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Fourth night of car arson prompts terror debate

The Local · 19 Aug 2011, 09:14

Published: 19 Aug 2011 09:14 GMT+02:00

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The wave of multiple arson attacks has prompted a sharp political discussion, with some lawmakers comparing those responsible with the terrorists of the 1970s leftist Red Army Faction (RAF).

Police said they were searching for at least three suspects, and have offered a €5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of those responsible.

“The police can’t do it alone,” said Rainer Wendt, head of the DPolG police union, who called for a “zero tolerance” attitude. He said officers needed better equipment, including more thermal imaging cameras and helicopters.

Yet they do not share the widespread assumption that left-wingers or anarchists were responsible for the torching of more than 50 cars across the city this week alone. Nearly 160 have gone up in flames this year so far.

The capital’s Social Democratic mayor, Klaus Wowereit, set to defend his position in the September 18 state election, appealed on Thursday for people to keep their eyes open and report any suspicious activity to the police. "This is a case of pure vandalism and criminality," he said.

But others have made stronger comments. Wolfgang Bosbach of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union compared the arson attacks with the start of the RAF terror campaign.

“The RAF terror also began with ‘only’ arson at on point,” he told the N24 television station on Thursday. “Therefore the danger is present that the violence is one day aimed against people.”

Dieter Wiefelspütz, interior policy expert for the centre-left Social Democrats, also told the Bild newspaper the arson attacks were the first step towards terrorism.

But the facts speak a different language, the police said. “The extreme left scene is not behind these actions, and has declared themselves not in agreement with them,” said police president Margarete Koppers. “These actions are rather frowned upon. They also have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. There is no serious political aim cannot be determined.”

And although many of the burned cars are Mercedes, Audi or BMW, the wrecks left smouldering in the morning also include older models with child seats in the back, or others full of tradesman’s tools. Next to these, new, expensive jeep-type Japanese cars remain untouched.

“For us this is a sign that there is only a pseudo-political motivation, used by copy cats, and that there is also a pyromaniac background.”

She said the last far-left attacks were against police stations, after which the groups responsible published boasting statements. The torching of family cars in other areas of the city did not fit into the picture, she said.

But with the Berlin state election just four weeks away, the CDU has adopted the topic in its campaign literature, with state party leader Frank Henkel demanding more “intelligence service resources against the militant left.” He said the state government’s suggestion that a lone firebrand was a political distraction manoeuvre.

Story continues below…

Yet the more excitable newspaper reports suggesting that the situation in Berlin could turn into riots comparable to those recently seen in London were dismissed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"I hope and am fairly confident that we in Germany will be spared from the events that we saw recently in London and other cities in Britain," she said.

The police are waiting for the arsonists to make a mistake. “Serial criminals in particular are easy to catch because they always strike again, and make mistakes,” said Koppers.

The Local/DAPD/DPA/The Local/hc/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:43 August 19, 2011 by userde
It is a little candle fire wedding present for the Merkozy's new Wedding Tsk Tsk....
10:16 August 19, 2011 by ND1000
Looks like German hoods want to be like British hoods, thats sweet. After all, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
11:11 August 19, 2011 by MonkeyMania
I detect some insurance fraud thrown into this equation. Also the fact that the cars are German cars and Japanese cars are being ignored may mean the culprits don't like German cars :-)
11:38 August 19, 2011 by oldMoslin
Can CCTV be installed hidden ones to catch these criminals. If these are insurance fraud they can be caught easily, who is claiming insurance money in that region whose car has been burnt. Can those suspects be kept in monitoring. Polizei should get some clues.
11:44 August 19, 2011 by dcgi
Yeah right, someone who owns a nice BMW or Mercedes is going to risk going to jail to burn out their own car, don't be so stupid.
13:06 August 19, 2011 by JDee

Actually there have been epidemics of persons doing exactly that in the UK, it was a major story around a decade ago. And yes, it is usually the flash harries and peacocks of lower intelligence who have tried to prop up their egos on finance who then resort to such tactics when they can't keep up the repayments.
14:57 August 19, 2011 by oldMoslin
@dcgi but the people who drive BMW /Mercedes won't do it by themselves.As they can also hire someone tod o this (and pay them some Euros say 50 Euro to penner). So by catching the lower level criminal one can catch the upper level criminal (the plotter of the plan).
15:00 August 19, 2011 by storymann
JDee, no doubt that what you say has been used in the past and will be used again. I would conclude ,however, that if these persons were having financial problems or living on the edge of the income stream the police would see this pattern.
15:25 August 19, 2011 by MonkeyMania
It is the wannabe rich trying to keep up with the Jones who will resort to this type of insurance fraud rather than downgrade their car to something they can afford to pay for.
15:37 August 19, 2011 by dcgi
This insurance fraud talk is all pretty moot, many cars are burning each night not just the odd one now and again, being committed most likely by a few misguided anarchist idiots, probably the same one's burning down the corridors of random houses.

Let's hope they get caught very soon.
18:56 August 19, 2011 by Englishted
it was the Red Arson Faction was it?
22:19 August 19, 2011 by MonkeyMania
Maybe Elvis is burning them
23:04 August 19, 2011 by zeddriver
@Englishted #11

Well done! LOL
23:21 August 19, 2011 by McNair Kaserne
"The police are waiting for the arsonists to make a mistake. ¦quot;Serial criminals in particular are easy to catch because they always strike again, and make mistakes,¦quot; said Koppers."

No, if they were easy to catch they would already be arrested.......What they meant to say was, "We can catch them eventually because they will give us enough chances that we can succeed."
04:31 August 20, 2011 by Zlik
All these vehicles on fire and no one saw a thing means to me that the perpetrators have something in common with the people who cannot afford these high priced vehicles. Period. Why rat on them, they bring the financial disparity to the front.
09:10 August 22, 2011 by moistvelvet
Terror debate? These are just some burning cars, obviously Germans don't know what terrorism is, the US only woke up to that one in 2001.
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