Chancellor Merkel said steps would be taken to combat right-wing extremism in the wake of a brutal attack on a black German in Potsdam. Police are still searching for leads as Ermyas R. fights for his life in hospital.
Hundreds of people took part in a church service for Ermyas R. on Wednesday
Merkel condemned the attack as "abominable and inhuman," government spokesman Thomas Steg said Wednesday evening. She wanted to make sure the government's program against right-wing extremism would continue, Steg said.
Police in Potsdam, in the eastern state of Brandenburg, have been collecting information volunteered by members of the population after a recording of the attackers was made public. But they don't yet have any hot leads, Brandenburg Interior Minister Jörg Schönbohm said on Wednesday.
The two men's voices were recorded on the telephone mailbox of Ermyas R.'s wife as the German man called for help during the attack.
Jumping to conclusions?
Schönbohm said he was sure the attackers would be caught soon. Ninety percent of violent crimes were solved, he said in an interview with Inforadio Berlin-Brandenburg. Schönbohm cautioned against drawing rash conclusions about the nature of the attack. Though the victim is black, there's no way to say what exactly happened, he pointed out.
Schönbohm said the attack may not have been motivated by racism
However, Germany's federal prosecutor, Kay Nehm, who has also opened an investigation, is assuming the attack was motivated by xenophobia because the perpetrators called Ermyas R. "nigger" on the recording.
Nigerians avoid Potsdam
In response to the attack, a Nigerian government delegation has cancelled plans to stay in a Potsdam hotel. "Originally the 15 participants of a business convention had booked rooms for a week," hotel director Beate Fernengel told the German news agency dpa on Thursday. "They justified their cancellation on the basis of their fear of attacks." She said the delegation had decided to stay in Berlin instead.
Police investigators on the case in Potsdam, whose numbers have been increased from 12 to 25, are reportedly focusing on numerous young people who were seen near the scene of the crime shortly before Ermyas R. was attacked. The two men are thought to have been between the ages of 18 and 25 and wearing baseball caps and so-called "hip-hop" pants.
The attack took place next to a tram stop on Easter Sunday
Rewards amounting to 15,000 euros ($18,500) have been offered for information leading to the attackers' arrest. Five thousand euros of the sum is being offered by the Leipzig Community, a scientific institute for which Ermyas R., an engineer, works. Ermyas R., who originally comes from Ethiopia, has lived in Germany since 1987.
Hundreds of people gathered on Wednesday night in a Potsdam church to pray for the 37-year old. Potsdam Mayor Jan Jakobs called for a rally to be held on Friday to show solidarity with the victim and his family and to speak out against racism and intolerance.