Following a night of violence in Connewitz, in the eastern German city of Leipzig, police have arrested 211 far-right extremists. Xenophobic sentiment has been fueled in parts of Germany by the Cologne attacks.
Coinciding with a march by xenophobic group LEGIDA on Monday evening, around 250 hooligans went on a rampage through Connewitz - an area south of Leipzig city center known to be left-leaning.
Culprits were seen lighting fireworks, smashing windows of several shops and trying to erect barricades. Several cars and bins were also set alight while the top floor of one building also caught fire. In response, left-wing radicals reportedly vandalized a bus that had been rented by the hooligans.
Five police officers were injured in the violence before the situation began to calm down at around 1:30 a.m. local time (0030 UTC) Wednesday.
According to police, a total of 57 crimes were committed on Monday night, all of which were linked to weapons, explosives narcotics, and the German right to assembly. A police spokesperson said that the list was likely to grow.
Intelligence services scrutinized
Leipzig mayor Burghard Jung (SPD) branded the violent protests as "open street terror." Speaking on Tuesday, he said, "it was bare violence, nothing else."
Leader of Saxony's Green Party Jürgen Kaesk also expressed his shock at the events. "This isn't a political debate. This is real terror."
General Secretary of Saxony's Social Democrats (SPD), Daniela Kolbe also brought the state's intelligence services into question. "How can it be that a mob of 250 violent Nazis can rage through Connewitz without the intelligence agency warning of this danger beforehand?" Kolbe demanded on Tuesday.
Expressing a similar sentiment, interior policy spokesman of Saxony's Greens, Valentin Lippmann, said that Monday's events were a "total failure" on the intelligence service's part.
Interior Minister Markus Ulbig (CDU) must "finally to take the networking and mobilization of right-wing hooligans seriously," Lippmann demanded.
Meanwhile in the city center, around 2,000 people marched through Leipzig city center in support of the "first anniversary" of LEGIDA - the Leipzig offshoot of anti-migrant movement PEGIDA.
Although numbers at PEGIDA's rallies have dwindled in recent months, there are now fears that reports of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in Cologne could fuel the cause of the xenophobic group. Many of the alleged culprits in the New Year's attacks were described as being of North African and Arab origin.
A PEGIDA rally in Cologne last weekend drew an estimated 1.700 supporters and was disbanded by the police after bottles and firecrackers were thrown at officers.
Thousands of Leipzigers also turned out in rain on Monday, however, in opposition to LEGIDA, with a candlelit walk. A broad coalition of trade unions, churches, NGOs and businesses such as Porsche and BMW had also called on citizens to form a human chain around the city center to demonstrate against LEGIDA.
ksb/jil (Reuters, AFP, dpa)