Pro-migrant German mayors receive death threats

At least three prominent German pro-migrant mayors have received death threats, it emerged Thursday, days after police arrested a suspected far-right extremist over the assassination-style gun murder of a local politician.

Pro-migrant German mayors receive death threats
Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, who was stabbed in the neck by a right-wing sympathizer in October 2015, has received new threats. Photo: DPA

Germany has been shocked by news that the top suspect in the June 2nd
shooting of Kassel city local politician Walter Lübcke is an alleged
neo-Nazi, believed to have been angered by an influx of refugees and migrants.

Now several other local politicians, who have been attacked or targeted in
the past for welcoming asylum seekers, report that they have again been

SEE ALSO: Political link suspected in German pro-migrant politician's murder

One of them, Cologne mayor Henriette Reker, was stabbed in the neck by a
right-wing sympathizer in October 2015 and has been under police protection ever since.

“The mayor has received death threats,” a Cologne police spokesman told AFP.

Another mayor, Andreas Hollstein, of the small town of Altena in North
Rhine-Westphalia state, on Tuesday confirmed to German news agency DPA that he had again received death threats.

He was slashed with a knife in 2017 after accepting a national award from
Chancellor Angela Merkel for Altena's work with refugees.

His attacker had criticized Hollstein for taking in refugees, it emerged
during the trial.

Holger Kelch, the mayor of Cottbus, said he had received 500 hate mails and three death threats since 2017 when he called for calm in the city after it emerged the killer of a German pensioner came from Syria.

SEE ALSO: A Portrait of Cottbus, the German town that stopped accepting refugees

“Along with my family, I am under police protection the whole day,” Kelch,
a member of Merkel's CDU party, told Berlin newspaper BZ.

“Since then, I think about my security all the time and sometimes I am

News of the death threats comes in the wake of the Lübcke case, which
prosecutors are treating as a political murder.

The 65-year-old was found on the terrace of his house in Wolfhagen near
Kassel, having been shot in the head at close range.

A 45-year-old suspect was arrested last weekend, with media reporting he
had previously launched a failed pipe bomb attack against a refugee shelter.

Lübcke was an outspoken defender of Merkel's decision to welcome refugees and in 2015 drew the wrath of the far right by telling Germans who objected that they could leave the country.

Tributes to Luebcke sparked an avalanche of negative comments and mockery on social networks, many welcoming the murder — a response that was slammed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Tuesday called the killing an “alarm
bell” for Germany and acknowledged that “right-wing extremism is a significant and serious danger for our society”.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Tuesday called the killing an “alarm
bell” for Germany and acknowledged that “right-wing extremism is a significant and serious danger for our society”.

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German police officer among arrests in nationwide far-right terror swoop

Police in Germany arrested twelve men, including one of its own officers, in a nationwide probe into an extreme-right group suspected of planning attacks on politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims, state interior ministry sources and prosecutors said Friday.

German police officer among arrests in nationwide far-right terror swoop
The sign for Germany's Bundesgerichtshof, or Federal Court: Photo: DPA

The arrests followed raids, some by heavily-armed special units, which hit 13 locations in six German states.

The four prime suspects planned to spark “a civil-war-like situation… via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

READ ALSO: A new strategy: How Germany is stepping up fight against far-right extremism

A further eight suspects were alleged to have agreed to “financially support the group, provide it with weapons or take part in future attacks”. 

The twelve included a police officer previously suspended over suspicions he had links to the far-right, a source at the interior ministry in North-Rhine Westphalia state told AFP, though it was not immediately clear if he was one of the prime suspects.

From its founding in September 2019, the group's ultimate aim was “to shake the state and social order in Germany and in the end to overturn it,” investigators believe.

In order to plan their attacks, the group allegedly held regular meetings which were coordinated and organised by two of the main suspects, named only as Werner S. and Tony E.

The suspects, all of whom are German citizens, also communicated using messenger apps.

Investigators launched Friday's raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack.

The twelve men are set to appear before a court on Friday or Saturday to hear whether they will be imprisoned on remand.

Far-right in spotlight

German authorities have turned increased attention to the country's underground extreme right scene since the murder of conservative local politician Walter Lübcke last June and an October attack on a synagogue in eastern city Halle.

Suspects arrested in both cases have ties to the extreme right.

According to Spiegel magazine, police discovered several weapons in Friday's raids, including one self-made “slam gun” similar to the one used in the Halle attack.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer announced in December 600 new posts across the federal police and domestic security services to track far-right extremist threats, citing a growing danger.

At the time, federal police said they had identified 48 people on the extreme right as “dangerous” individuals who could carry out an attack.

Reacting to reports of the arrests on Friday, a spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry said that measures to protect religious institutions would be reviewed by local authorities.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, said that threats to attack Islamic institutions in Germany amounted to “abominable behaviour”.

“We as the federal government feel an obligation to ensure that anyone in Germany can practice their religion within the bounds of our legal order,” said Steffen Seibert at a government press conference.

By Kit Holden