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Germany

Germans Leaving Togo After Attack

As around 100 Germans left the African country, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called on Togo's government to put an end to the "anti-German baiting" there.

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The Goethe Institute is meant to promote cultural exchange

Fischer said on Saturday that the safety of Germans and German facilities in Togo must be ensured. His appeal came a day after armed young men destroyed the Goethe Institute in the capital, Lome, and the German foreign ministry advised all its countrymen and women to leave the West African state.

The gunmen shot at and invaded the cultural center early Friday morning and then set it on fire. The exact reasons for the attack are unclear, though some analysts believe it is linked to the unrest in the country since elections last Sunday.

The first floor library and some of the classrooms were completely destroyed. The gunmen overwhelmed the security guards and shot out the lighting throughout the building in Lome before they stormed it early Friday morning. They first entered the library and set it on fire before moving to the classrooms. Fire engines arrived on the scene before the attackers could reach the second floor. The attack caused around 300,000 euros ($390,000) in damage.

"Only three offices are still intact in the entire huge villa. Everything else has been destroyed, including 15 computers. And all of the media equipment and wiring has been burned, as well as the delivery truck," Goethe Institute Lomé Director Herwig Kempf said of the damage.

Violent unrest

Präsidentschaftswahlen in Togo

Opposition supporters man burning roadblocks in the Be Kpota area of Lome

There has been a surge in violence in Togo since presidential elections on April 24. At least 22 people have been killed since then. Opposition activists have rejected the victory of the ruling Togolese People Rally party candidate, Faure Gnassingbé. Togo has been in political upheaval since the former ruler, Gnassingbe Eyadema -- Faure's father -- died in February. He and his army commanders ran the country for nearly 40 years.

Stefan Hüssgen, of Goethe Institute Headquarters in Munich, said the organization has nothing to do with politics. "G.I. doesn't usually get involved in politics, stands for something else for the people, but maybe people can't distinguish between the two." He said this was the first direct attack on a German cultural center worldwide.

German Embassy accused of bias

Karte von Togo

The Togolese government criticized the German Embassy this week, claiming that it supports the opposition. Togo's former interior minister, who lost his job after calling for a delay of Sunday's vote, has sought refuge at the German Embassy. An opposition leader's house was also surrounded by military early Friday morning, as was the German Embassy in Lome.

Germany's Foreign Ministry on Friday called for an investigation into the attack, and the European Union expressed serious concern over the incident. For the past 10 years, the European Union has upheld sanctions against Togo, aiming to force the late dictator Eyadema to introduce democratic reforms.

Around 150 poll monitors from the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, have claimed that Sunday's election results -- which confirmed Eyadema'a son as winner -- were fair. But others believe the democratic opposition actually won and that a greater international presence is necessary.

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