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CRIME

Suspect arrested in mosque arson case

A 30-year-old man was arrested Friday evening in Berlin's Neukölln district on suspicion of arson, following a series of attacks on several mosques in the German capital, a police spokesman said.

Suspect arrested in mosque arson case
A mosque in the Wilmersdorf district was attacked on Jan. 8. Photo: DPA

Investigators apprehended the man at the Blaschkoallee U-Bahn station.

The arrest follows a wave of arson attacks on Muslim houses of worship in Berlin in recent months. No one was injured, but the fires caused property damage in every case.

The assailant or assailants routinely left messages behind at the scene. Police did not describe the notes in detail, but media reports said the messages were collages of newspaper articles.

Following a comprehensive investigation, state prosecutors reportedly obtained a warrant to search the offices of the Berlin daily newspaper B.Z. A police spokesman said investigators confiscated evidence that strengthened the case against the suspect.

According to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Peter Huth, the suspect contacted B.Z. in mid-December under false pretenses, requesting a copy of a newspaper article. Huth said an employee received the inquiry.

“Wisely, she took down the name and the address and was able to inform police officers on Friday afternoon, which allowed for an arrest within a few hours,” B.Z.’s editor said.

A police spokesman said the man arrested Friday is suspected of involvement in four of seven arson attacks on Berlin mosques since June of last year. Investigators are examining whether the suspect has any connection to the other incidents.

Most recently, the entrance of a mosque of the Ahmadiyya community in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin was set ablaze in the early hours of January 8. Mosques in the districts of Neukölln and Tempelhof were targeted in similar attacks in 2010.

DAPD/arp

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BERLIN

Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to ‘remain shut for years’

The closure in Berlin Grunewald, where a disastrous fire spread earlier this month, is due to exploded munition remnants littering the forest floor.

Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to 'remain shut for years'

Two weeks since a devastating fire ravaged part of Berlin’s Grunewald forest, the head of the city’s forests division says the burned out section will have to shut for the next few years.

At 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres), Grunewald is the largest green space in Berlin and located on the city’s western edge. The forest – which is nicknamed the ‘green lung’ of Berlin – is a popular area for hiking, biking, and swimming in its lakes.

The forest’s southern half also contains Sprengplatz, an area set up in 1950 to collect and detonate leftover munitions from WWII, particularly those left by allied bombing raids of the then-Nazi capital.

The fire, which broke out at Sprengplatz, scattered detonated many pieces of leftover munitions all over the surrounding forest floor.

READ ALSO: ‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

Berlin Forests says the police will be detonating larger explosives in the coming weeks, but that it will take much longer to search for and safely dispose of smaller pieces.

“It’s very time-consuming work and it will take years to collect everything,” Berlin Forests Head Gunnar Heyne told regional broadcaster rbb. “The forest will remain closed for at least that long.”

Heyne is confident though, that the forest itself will recover well quickly, particularly its oak and poplar trees.

While the area around Sprengplatz will remain shut, much of the rest of the forest, including the path to Grunewald’s popular Teufelsee—or “Devil’s Lake,” remain open.

READ ALSO: Firefighters bring Berlin forest fire under control after munitions explosion

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