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EU parliamentary group ejects German AfD lawmaker

A conservative political alliance in the European Parliament has told a member of Germany's AfD to leave the group. The move comes amid growing concern over the rise of nationalist parties in Europe.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) said on Tuesday it had kicked out Marcus Pretzell, a member of the German nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), after he made what some interpreted as anti-immigrant remarks.

The third-largest faction of the European Parliament and political home to Britain's governing party, the ECR made the decision during a plenary session in Strasbourg. Forty-five of 75 ECR delegates voted for Pretzell to leave the group.

Pretzell confirmed his departure on Twitter. "I'm off, dear ECR. 38 were needed. 45 was the final count. It's sure to be a fun time in the ECR in the coming weeks," he wrote.

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Lurch to the right

Pretzell had drawn the ire of his colleagues after making comments that echoed those made by AfD leader Frauke Petry, who said the use of firearms to defend Germany's border was "self-evident."

Pretzell said the vote showed the deep divides within the ECR, accusing British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives of influencing decision-making within the group.

The second AfD representative in the ECR, Beatrix von Storch, had also been asked to leave last month. Von Storch announced on Friday that she was joining the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), a euroskeptic nationalist group co-led by the heads of Britain's UK Independence Party and Italy's Five Star Movement.

Originally a more moderate, Europskeptic party, AfD has since moved to the right as Europe grapples with the ongoing wave of refugees from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. The party's

growing popularity

has put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been criticized over the past several months for her migrant policy.

blc/sms (dpa, AP)

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