German arson attacks: community centre the latest in string of hits targeting Turks

Over the weekend mosques were razed by Molotov cocktails in Berlin

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 1:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 3:47am

German security agencies are on alert for signs of violence against Turkish facilities in Berlin, Stuttgart and other cities, the Interior Ministry said, after fires damaged several Turkish-run mosques over the weekend.

Arsonists on Monday struck a Turkish community centre in the town of Ahlen. Firefighters on Sunday battled for more than 90 minutes to extinguish a blaze at the Koca Sinan mosque in Berlin.

It was the latest in a series of incidents police say may be linked to demonstrations by hundreds of people against Turkey’s military operation in the northern Syrian region of Afrin aimed at sweeping the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from the Turkish border.

“The events in the region can stoke passions among Kurds living here in Germany,” a ministry spokeswoman said, noting that conflicts between Turks and Kurds were also playing out in Germany, which is home to about 3 million people with ties to Turkey, including many ethnic Kurds.

Over the weekend Molotov cocktails were thrown at Turkish community mosques in Berlin and the town of Lauffen, a cultural centre in Meschede and a Turkish vegetable shop in Itzehoe, where the windows of a mosque were also smashed. No one was wounded in the attacks.

Police arrested three Syrian men, who denied involvement, after the Meschede attack.

The attacks came on a weekend that saw several demonstrations against Turkey’s military operation to oust the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Afrin region of northern Syria.

Pro-Kurdish demonstrators rallied in Hamburg Saturday, where rocks were thrown at the Turkish consulate, and on Sunday at Düsseldorf airport some protesters scuffled with police who employed pepper spray.

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Turkey’s foreign ministry voiced “deep concern” about the attacks and said on Sunday that the incident in Lauffen had been claimed by a group affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

It added that there had been “a considerable increase in the number of attacks against Turkish mosques in Germany recently by racist and Islamophobic groups as well as the PKK terrorist organisation”.

“We expect the perpetrators of these attacks to be caught as soon as possible and brought to justice and necessary measures to be taken by the German authorities to prevent the recurrence of such attacks.”

A pro-Kurdish website has published purported videos of the Lauffen and Meschede attacks, claiming they were carried out by Kurdish youths.

The Kurdish Community in Germany group sharply condemned the attacks and calls on social media that were “urging Kurdish youths to employ violence against Turkish institutions”.

Its chairman Ali Ertan Toprak said such attacks “endanger innocent human lives and politically damage primarily the cause of the Kurds while jeopardising peaceful coexistence in Germany”.

“Whoever is behind these attacks and calls for violence, whether it’s circles close to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party insurgents in Turkey) or the Turkish intelligence agency MIT, nothing justifies this form of inhumane violence,” Ali Ertan Toprak, head of the Kurdish community, said in a statement.

Toprak urged Kurds to refrain from violence, stressing that it was unclear whether the attacks were carried out by “supporters of the PKK or the Turkish secret service MIT”.