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Attacks: Bavaria vows toughness

July 26, 2016

Government heads in Bavaria, the scene of two attacks by asylum-seekers, want rapid expulsions of rejected asylum applicants and tough oversight of migrant hostels. Premier Horst Seehofer says his region is deeply hurt.

Deutschland Joachim Herrmann und Horst Seehofer in St. Quirin am Tegernsee
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Kneffel

Bavaria's right-wing regional government issued a series of law-and-order calls nationwide on Tuesday in reaction to the past 10 days array of attacks across southern Germany that left ten victims dead and dozens wounded.

The interior minister of Bavaria Joachim Herrmann (pictured above with Seehofer at right) said the expulsion of a rejected applicant into a crisis-hit home region, such as Afghanistan, "should no longer be tabu."

Bavarian State Premier Seehofer, who also chairs the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), an ally to the right of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said "Islamist terror" had reached Germany and anxious residents of Bavaria expected the state to protect them.

"The past week has hit Bavaria in the gut," said Seehofer during a press conference at Gmund in the alpine Tegernsee region - south of Munich - where his cabinet had begun a five-day session.

Seehofer, Merkel's erstwhile conservative ally who from the outset in 2015 strongly criticized the migrant influx, vowed to boost Bavarian police numbers, saying action was needed "instead of constantly talking to-and-fro."

Bavarian justice minister Winfried Bausback renewed a call - long controversial at federal parliamentary level - that police get easier access to stored electronic messaging links such as e-mails, WhatsApp and Skype.

Deutschland Klausur von CDU und CSU in Potsdam
Allies but at odds, Seehofer and Merkel in Potsdam last yearImage: picture alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger

Peace protest by refugees in Ansbach

The televised statements coincided Tuesday with a peace protest by numerous Syrian and Iraki refugees in Ansbach.

The northern Bavarian town was where on Sunday a 27-year-old Syrian asylum seeker died when his rucksack bomb detonated outside a wine bar, wounding 15 passersby.

German language teacher Franziska Schmidt, who accompanied the refugees, said they did not want to "brandmarked because of their appearance as terrorists" and themselves were fearful to go out onto the street.

"They want to make it clear that they were and will be always friendly," she said. A young refugee with her said: We are Muslims, not terrorists."

Syrische Flüchtlinge Demonstration in Ansbach
'We want to live peacefully,' say Ansbach refugeesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Karmann

'Anti-terror' package also in Baden-Württemerg

In further reactions Tuesday, the regional government of neighboring Baden-Württemberg state - where on Sunday a Syrian refugee killed a woman colleague with a large knife - announced a 4.6-million-euro ($5-million-euro) "anti-terror" package.

Premier Winfried Kretschmann of the Greens and regional interior minister Thomas Strobl of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party said immediate recruitment would include cyber crime-fighting experts with knowledge of Arabic. Strobl said refugees should be placed under "general suspicion."

Complex circumstances

Aides to Merkel, who backed last year's migrant arrivals along the "Balkans route, have stressed that three of the four male assailants behind the attacks of the past 10 days had arrived in Germany before last year's record influx.

The Frankfurt-based organization "Pro Asyl" [Pro Asylum] warned Tuesday against drawing hasty conclusions about the attacks in Germany.

"The dangerous mixture of augmented suicide, running amok with terroristic interpretation, terror with retrospective claims of responsibility on the part of IS and Islamist terror in the narrow sense muss be analyzed closely," said Pro Asyl's deputy director, Bernd Mesovic.

Don't prejudge, urges de Maiziere

Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned again in public ZDF television late on Monday against prejudging recently arrived Muslim refugees.

"We know that refugees are neither saints nor sinners," he said, adding that authorities could not assume that they posed a high risk.

He urged Germany's population to remain friendly and open-minded but not naïve.

The London-based consultancy Control Risks on Tuesday said the four violent incidents in Germany had little in common except that "all four attackers seem to have had mental health disorders" stemming from their origins.

"Increasing global instability seems to be making it easier for these people to want to express themselves through violence," said Control Risks in a report.

More rigorous, says SPD expert

Burkhard Lischka, the internal affairs spokeman for the center-left Social Democrats, who form part of Merkel's governing federal coalition, said Germany must be more rigorous in expelling migrants whose asylum applications had been legally rejected.

"Any asylum seeker or refugee who is rejected must leave Germany," he said.

'We can do it' not enough, says Left

The Left party's parliamentary leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, told public ARD television that the "integration of a very large number of refugees and immigrants involves problems at any rate and is much more difficult than Frau Merkel with her 'we can do it' [appeals] tried to suggest last autumn."

A spokesman for Merkel said she was "always on duty" while remaining at her holiday cottage north of Berlin and would return to the capital "at any time" if needed.

IS claims made after attacks

Links to two of the past week's assaults in northern Bavaria - at Würzburg on 18 July and Ansbach last Sunday - were subsequently claimed by the jihadist "Islamic State" which is known for its brutality in Syria and Iraq.

Police attribute no such link to the German teenager with Iranian parents who killed nine people near a Munich fast-food restaurant last Friday before turning his illegally obtained handgun on himself. He was reportedly obsessed with mass killings.

ipj/kms (AfP, dpa, Reuters, epd)