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CRIME

Merkel leads Germany-wide condemnation of attack on AfD politician

Chancellor Angela Merkel led condemnations Tuesday of a "politically motivated" gang attack against a far-right German MP, an assault that underlined the increasingly tense political landscape in the country.

Merkel leads Germany-wide condemnation of attack on AfD politician
Frank Magnitz of the AfD. Photo: DPA

Frank Magnitz, leader in Bremen of the anti-immigration populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), was assaulted in the city centre on Monday afternoon.

“Given the victim's work, we believe that this is a politically motivated act,” police said.

SEE ALSO: Probe underway after Bremen AfD leader seriously injured in targeted gang attack

The AfD party published a photo of Magnitz unconscious on a hospital bed, his face bleeding and swollen with a gash on his forehead.

It said three masked men had carried out the attack.

“They hit him with a piece of wood until he was unconscious and then kicked him on the ground,” a statement from the party said, adding that a construction worker had intervened to stop the assault.

“Today is a dark day for democracy in Germany.”

Magnitz, who is still in hospital, told national news agency DPA that he neither saw the attackers nor heard them say anything.

“I will in any case be more careful when walking through the area,” he said, adding that doctors were likely to keep him in hospital until the weekend.

AfD leader Jörg Meuthen tweeted that Magnitz was “beaten almost to death” in a “cowardly and sickening” attack.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter that the “brutal attack” was “to be condemned sharply”.

“Hopefully the police will succeed in catching the perpetrators quickly,” he wrote.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said there was “absolutely no justification” for the use of violence despite political differences.

“Anyone who carries out such a crime must be punished.”

Multiple attacks 

The AfD's entry into parliament in September 2017 with 13 percent of the vote unleashed a political earthquake in Germany.

With their anti-immigration rhetoric and their challenge of post-WWII Germany's culture of atonement, the party's leaders and MPs have been knocking over taboo after taboo in the country's political arena.

While they have won fans in some quarters and are projected to make gains in European elections in May as well as three regional polls in the former communist east later this year, they have also sparked furore and become a target of attack.

Last week, an explosive device detonated in a rubbish bin damaged an AfD office in Saxony. Three suspects were detained.

And last weekend in Lower Saxony, the home of a local AfD politician was targeted with graffiti and a party office was attacked with a paint bomb. 

Since mid-December, German police have recorded eight attacks against AfD offices.

Party co-chiefs Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel called the latest assault the “result of the incitement to hatred by politicians and media against us”.

Amid the heated atmosphere, Johannes Kahrs, an MP from the Social Democrats, junior partners in the ruling coalition, said “violence is never acceptable” and that “extremism in any form is rubbish”. He wished Magnitz a quick recovery.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote to Magnitz to express his “consternation” over the attack.”Our democracy needs controversies, exchanges with arguments, even when this gets heated. But we must never allow political violence – regardless from which side,” he wrote, according to DPA.

Cem Ozdemir of the opposition Greens party said he hoped those responsible could be “found and convicted soon” and that, even against a far-right party, “nothing justifies violence”.

“Those who fight hate with hate only allow hate to win in the end,” said the politician of Turkish origin.   

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CRIME

German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.

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