Sharp rise in attacks on migrant centres in Germany
Crimes targeting refugee centres in Germany have risen sharply, police said Thursday, cautioning that the European migrant crisis was fuelling the risk of attacks on politicians by far-right extremists.
The warning by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) comes after a mayoral candidate in the eastern city of Cologne was stabbed in the neck in an attack apparently motivated by her work with refugees.
The BKA said there were 285 attacks on migrant centres across Germany during July, August and September -- more than in the whole of 2014, when only 198 offences were recorded.
There have been 576 offences targeting refugee hostels since the start of the year, including cases of criminal damage and inciting hatred, 523 of which were committed by far-right extremists, the BKA said.
"Alongside the attacks on asylum-seeker hostels, attacks against officials held responsible (for the influx of migrants), such as politicians or the managers of lodging places, could grow," a BKA spokesperson warned.
Security experts are bracing for a rise in unrest, with domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen warning in late September of a radicalisation of right-wing groups and "a greater willingness to use violence" by all extremist groups.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere on Thursday visited a refugee shelter in Bamberg, southern Germany, where he told journalists that "new criminal acts or attacks" had been thwarted by the police, according to the DPA news agency.
The visit came after three people were arrested in a raid Wednesday in Bavaria on suspicion of seeking to form a criminal organisation, regional authorities said.
Regional television channel BR said they had sought to obtain a large quantity of incendiary material -- specifically, material used for powerful fireworks that could be used to set fire to buildings.
Anti-migrant protesters are due to hold a demonstration on October 31 in front of a migrant shelter in Bamberg. The town mayor has said he may take steps to have the gathering banned.
More than 630,000 people fleeing war and misery in the Middle East and Africa have landed on Europe's shores so far this year.
Most want to get to Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, which is expecting to register up to a million asylum seekers by the end of 2015.
Henriette Reker, an independent mayoral candidate in Cologne, became the most prominent victim of a growing backlash against a huge influx of migrants on Saturday when a man attacked her with knives on the campaign trail.
She survived serious injuries and went on to win the election a day later.
© 2015 AFP