German paper that ran Charlie Hebdo cartoons firebombed

11th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

A German tabloid that paid tribute to those killed at Charlie Hebdo by reprinting cartoons from the French satirical paper mocking the Prophet Mohammed was targeted in a firebombing Sunday, police said.

With security services on high alert after a jihadist killing spree in Paris, police in the northern German port city of Hamburg said no one was at the headquarters of the regional daily Hamburger Morgenpost at the time of the attack, which caused only slight damage.

Hamburg police said it was "too soon" to tell whether there was a connection between the Charlie Hebdo tribute and the firebombing, which would mark the first revenge attack over the cartoons since Wednesday's massacre of 12 people at the French weekly.

State security forces took over the investigation.

"Rocks and then a burning object were thrown through the window," a police spokesman told AFP.

"Two rooms on lower floors were damaged but the fire was put out quickly."

The Hamburger Morgenpost, known locally as the MOPO, had splashed the Charlie Hebdo cartoons on its front page after the murders at the Paris publication, running the headline "This much freedom must be possible!"

Police said the attack had occurred at about 0120 GMT and that two men seen acting suspiciously near the scene were detained.

They declined to provide further information about the suspects but Hamburger Morgenpost gave their ages as 35 and 39.

The newspaper, which has a circulation of around 91,000, declined to comment but it offered regular updates of its article on the firebombing on its website.

"Thick smoke is still hanging in the air, the police are looking for clues," it said in its initial story, under the headline "Arson attack on the MOPO - Due to the 'Charlie Hebdo' cartoons?".

Later Sunday it had removed any reference to Charlie Hebdo but quoted the regional representative body for the media as calling the firebombing a "cowardly and insidious act of terror against press freedom".

Hamburg is Germany's second city, with a population of around 2.4 million.

- Solidarity with French cartoonists -

Reports said the newspaper's publishers had ordered private security protection for the building in the western district of Othmarschen Thursday.

Several German newspapers ran the cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed on their front pages in a gesture of solidarity with the murdered French cartoonists and in defence of free speech.

The Hamburg firebombing comes at a time of heightened tensions over the rise of a new anti-Islamic movement in Germany.

A right-wing populist group called "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident"(PEGIDA), has called for its weekly march in the eastern city of Dresden Monday to be dedicated to "the victims of terrorism in Paris".

Justice Minister Heiko Maas accused the group of trying to exploit the killings and urged it to call off its rally.

"The victims do not deserve to be misused by rabble-rousers like these," he told the daily Bild.

On Saturday about 35,000 people, organisers said, took to the streets in Dresden against PEGIDA.

And several Muslim groups have called a silent march in Berlin on Monday to denounce violence and call for social cohesion.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in Paris Sunday for a massive march for the victims, on Saturday addressed members of her party in Hamburg, which is also one of Germany's 16 federal states and which is holding elections next month.

She stressed the need for the exchange of security intelligence among Europe's secret services, particularly between members of the Schengen passport-free zone, ahead of a European interior ministers' meeting in Paris Sunday.

Hamburg's Islamist scene came to global attention in 2001 when it emerged that three of the suicide hijackers from the September 11 attacks on the United States, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, had lived and studied in the city.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported earlier that the bloodshed in France could signal the start of a wave of attacks in Europe, citing communications by Islamic State leaders intercepted by US intelligence.

A 24-year-old German suspected of joining Islamic State jihadists in Syria was arrested Saturday, months after he returned from the war-ravaged country.

German officials estimate around 550 of their citizens have made their way to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamic State, raising fears of attacks on home soil when they return.

© 2015 AFP

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