A local politician who supported a plan to house refugees in the town of Freital outside Dresden has been the victim of an arson attack. The Left party said that Michael Richter was the target of right-wing threats.
In the early hours of Monday morning, Richter's car exploded in front of his home, in what was allegedly a politically-motivated property attack.
No one was injured in the blast, which police believe was the result of someone purposely "introducing an explosive agent" into the vehicle. A loud bang could be heard outside the house of Richter, the head of the Left party faction in Freital's city council, followed by billowing black smoke.
In recent weeks, Freital - just 10 kilometers (6 miles) southwest of Dresden - has been the scene of increasingly tense political rhetoric and sporadic violence after city authorities announced in June that the town of around 40,000 would house 280 refugees in a former hotel. Some locals responded by launching a series of increasingly virulent anti-asylum seeker demonstrations, culminating in a July 6 town hall meeting which saw protestors clash with town politicians.
Richter received threats from extremists
The Left party office for the area suspects a political motivation to the attack on Richter's car, saying he has been under threat from far-right sympathizers for weeks after proclaiming his unwavering support for the plan to house refugees in Freital.
"This casts suspicion on a right-wing extremist origin," of the incident, according to a party spokesman.
"Such a wave of racism and misanthropy has until now only been associated with Rostock-Lichtenhagen or Hoyerswerda in the 90s," said Antje Freiks, leader of the Left Party for the state of Saxony, where Freital is located, referring to the scenes of a series of infamous riots in the early 1990s where locals assaulted immigrants and threw Molotov cocktails at homes for refugees.
As Germany takes on the brunt of an increasingly massive wave of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East and northern Africa, the number of attacks on homes for asylum seekers has seen an upswing. Already in the first half of 2015, the rate of violence against refugee housing has surpassed the whole of 2014, with 202 attacks up from the previous year's 198. Last year's numbers were themselves a threefold increase from the amount of incidents in 2013.
es/kms (AFP, dpa)