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Three police cars torched in Dresden during German Unity Festival

Police have said the incident is the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks in the city. Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are scheduled to attend the Dresden festival on Monday.

Three police vehicles were torched in Dresden on Saturday night, as the city began its German Unity Festival in celebration of the 26th anniversary of German reunification. 

Dresden police said the vehicles were so badly damaged that they can no longer be used. Damages are estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Police have yet to find the perpetrator, but are questioning one man initially taken into custody on suspicion of writing hateful graffiti. Police apprehended the man near the spot where "Dresden hates the police" had been sprayed. They said they are investigating whether there is a connection between the graffiti and the torched vehicles, with the incidents happening around 2.5 kilometers away from each other.

A 'politically motivated' act

Police said that they assume the perpetrator was politically motivated and was likely responding to Dresden's three-day festival celebrating German reunification, which has seen an increased police presence in the city.

On Friday, Dresden Police President Horst Kretschmar announced that 2,600 police officers would be safeguarding around 750,000 visitors expected to attend the German Unity Day festivities.

The announcement coincided with former German Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse saying Germans needed to acknowledge that the threat of far-right fanatical violence was "four to five times higher" in east Germany than in the west.

Dresden has been a hot spot for extremist far-right violence in recent years. The nationalist, anti-Islam movement PEGIDA was founded in Dresden in 2014 and has drawn as many as 20,000 people to its protest rallies.

Last Monday evening, two bombs detonated within half an hour of each other in front of a mosque and a congress center. Nobody was injured.

Dresden security and police officers will be on increased alert on Monday when Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck travel to the city for the festival's official ceremony.

dm/rc (dpa, AFP)