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More far-left violence in Berlin as 17 cars are set on fire

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More far-left violence in Berlin as 17 cars are set on fire
File photo of a burning car in Berlin. Photo: DPA
15:03 CEST+02:00
A total of 17 cars were damaged by arson attacks in the early hours of Monday morning. Police believe far-left extremists are responsible for at least two of the fires.

The fires took place across various districts of the city, the worst in the car park of the local law enforcement office (Ordnungsamt) in Köpenick. A resident alerted police after spotting the flames shortly after 1am; six cars were completely burned, while a seventh was damaged.

At around 3.30am, in Danziger Straße, in Prenzlauer Berg, a small car belonging to a housing association was completely burned, while two others were severely damaged.

Both offences have been linked to leftist extremists, with the investigations being handled by the state security office responsible for political crimes.

Other areas of the capital were also affected by arson attacks on cars; three vehicles were damaged in Neukölln, one in Marzahn and three in Steglitz. However, a political motive was not established for these offences, and the state criminal police are leading investigations.

The attacks come as Berlin's far-left scene has been involved in an escalating series of violent incidents with the capital's police.

Hostilities were triggered when in January 500 police officers raided Rigaer Strasse 94, an iconic address in the left-wing squatter scene.

The police raid was a response to a traffic cop being attacked by three masked individuals in the Friedrichshain area, where Rigaer Strasse is situated, but was seen by many as highly disproportionate.

In February far-left groups burned cars in apparent revenge for the raid, with anonymous users of a far-left forum threatening €1 million in damage for every police raid on their squats in Rigaer Strasse.

In late June violence flared again when properties were attacked across the city in response to another police raid on the same address.

July has also been packed with incident.

A left-wing demo in Friedrichshain turned violent on July 9th leading to 83 people being detained and 123 police officers reporting injuries.

Last week a Berlin court ruled that the June raid on Rigaer Strasse was illegal, leading to calls for Berlin's interior minister to resign as critics claimed he had undone decades of work in de-escalating conflict with the far-left scene.

There has also been an increasing tendency to turn to violence among the far left nationwide.

This rise has been well-documented in recent years; 2015 saw an increase in extremist groups of all kinds, with the Interior Ministry saying it had "observed not just a rise in membership but also an increase in violence and brutality" among the far right, far left, and Islamic extremist groups.

The upturn in violence seems to have been largely triggered by the refugee crisis, with those on the far-right attacking refugee homes, for example, and far-left groups retaliating, often attacking far-right activists or police.

Far-left acts of violence rose sharply, to 1,608 violent offences from 995 the previous year in 2015, according to reports. Burning cars is a common offence, particularly those belonging to police.

 

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