Arson unlikely in German fire that killed nine Turks

4th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Investigators say that there is a lack of evidence.

Berlin -- Investigators probing a fire that claimed the lives of nine Turks in the German city of Ludwigshafen Tuesday all but ruled out arson as the cause.

Senior prosecutor Lothar Liebig said it was "extremely unlikely" that the fire in a rundown, century-old building had been set deliberately.

Turkish investigator Mehmet Tuzel said he agreed there was no evidence of arson, although the possibility could not be completely excluded.

The fire had started very slowly under the stairs in the cellar, Liebig told a press conference in the southwestern city.

No evidence of materials used to start a fire had been found, he said, and he added there was no evidence of a technical defect, such as an electrical short circuit.

The claim by two Turkish girls, aged 8 and 9, that they had seen a man starting a fire had proved unreliable, and the girls had withdrawn their statement after careful probing by a trained forensic psychologist, Liebig said.

The fire, which broke out during a Sunday carnival procession in the city on Feb. 3, provoked strong feelings among Germany's 2.4-million-strong Turkish community.

Turkish investigators were sent to join the probe into the causes.

A post-mortem of the victims, among them five children and a pregnant woman, showed eight had died from smoke inhalation. Another woman leaped to her death from an upper floor trying to escape the flames.

Sixty people in the house, which was occupied largely by an extended Turkish family, were injured.

Turkish newspapers fuelled rumors of arson, reviving memories of the deaths of five Turks in the city of Solingen in 1993 after a fire had been deliberately started in their home. The previous year three Turkish women were killed in another arson attack.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Ludwigshafen days afterwards, and his visit was dominated by the fire and difficulties in relations between Germans and Turks.

DPA with Expatica

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