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German police chief concerned at growing anti-refugee violence

Germany's federal police chief says there have been 45 arson attacks on refugee shelters so far this year. He warned of the potential threat posed by organized right-wing extremist crime.

The head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Holger Münch, has warned of a new dimension to violent attacks on asylum-seekers in the country in an interview published on Saturday.

Speaking to newspapers of the Funke media group, Münch said the "increasing level of violence was especially of concern," adding that 45 arson attacks had been carried out on refugee shelters so far this year.

"The perpetrators are predominantly male, and nearly 80 percent come from the place where the offense was committed," he said.

Although Münch said there was no sign that the attacks were being organized at a national level by right-wing extremist groups, there was a danger of such organization occurring at some stage.

He said there was a possible risk that "criminal or even terrorist structures" could arise on the basis of anti-refugee sentiment and that German police were taking this threat "very seriously."

In recent months, Germany has seen opposition to the government's liberal policy on refugees become more vocal and take on a more organized form in the guise of the political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the "anti-Islamization" movement PEGIDA. In 2015, Germany took in some 1.1 million people seeking asylum, many of them fleeing conflict, poverty or persecution in the Middle East and Africa.

BKA head Holger Münch

Munch noted a rise in "the quality of violence"

'Imams must do more'

In the interview, Münch also called on the Muslim community in Germany to do more to help combat radical Islamism.

"We do not sense any objections to the work of the police," he said. "But some communities have a problem recognizing that their faith is being abused by radicals.

"We need more commitment here - from imams as well," Münch added.

The police chief also said he saw a risk that radical Salafists could exploit the difficult situation asylum-seekers to Germany often found themselves in. He said young, male Muslim refugees wanted to find friends and practice their religion, which could lead to their coming under the influence of a Salafist preacher at a mosque who might radicalize them.

"Radical activities in mosques certainly worry us," he said.

Infografik Karte Flüchtlingsfeindliche Vorfälle 2016 EN neu

tj/sms (dpa, KNA)