Sunday, June 16, 2024

German policeman’s killing deepens political chasm ahead of EU vote

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The death of a policeman at the hands of a knife-wielding Afghan migrant has raised deep concerns about political violence in Germany just days ahead of European parliament elections.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday vowed forceful action against extremists of every political persuasion, after the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) used the incident to stoke anti-immigrant fear.

“We will defend the rule of law and our security with all means at our disposal,” he said. Extremists from the left and right “should expect us to deploy all available means to confront them”.

Police said the suspect, identified only as Sulaiman A., attacked several people in the south-western city of Mannheim last week at an event organised by the Pax Europa Movement (BPE), which campaigns against what its members describe as the “creeping Islamisation” of Germany.

Six people were injured in the attack, including Michael Stürzenberger, one of the BPE’s leaders. The policeman, named as Rouven L., was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck, and on Sunday succumbed to his wounds.

AfD leaders Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel said they were “worried about all the policemen who daily put their life in danger due to [Germany’s] failed immigration and security policies”.

They said the AfD wanted “safe borders and a Fortress Europe”. Immigration from Afghanistan must stop, they added, and Afghan refugees deported back to their homeland.

Nancy Faeser, interior minister, said the perpetrator must be “punished for this murderous act with the full force of the law”.

“The motive is still being investigated, but it’s clear: our security services are keeping a close eye on the Islamist scene and will intensify this fight in the future,” she said.

The suspect is a 25-year-old man, married with two children, who was born in Afghanistan and came to Germany as a refugee in 2014. Police have not been able to question him yet because he was hurt in the incident and is still receiving medical treatment.

German news reports alleged that he had links to Germany’s Islamist scene, but was not known to authorities as an extremist.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “deeply shocked” by the policeman’s death, saying the officer had “courageously intervened to save people’s lives”.

He also expressed concern about the “brutalisation of the political debate” in Germany and the “increasing willingness [of some people] in our country to resort to violence”. “It can’t go on like this,” he said. “Violence endangers what has made our democracy strong.”

The leader of the opposition, Christian Democrat head Friedrich Merz, went further, saying the “murder must have tough consequences, including for those who sympathise with the perpetrator”.

The AfD’s youth wing “Young Alternative” held a protest in Mannheim on Sunday under the slogan: “Remigration would have prevented this crime”.

Remigration is an extremist term that includes mass deportation of German nationals with immigrant roots. The AfD in January caused controversy when it emerged that some of its party officials attended secret meetings with a white supremacist leader where this concept was discussed.

In Mannheim, locals responded to the AfD youth protest by organising a human chain aimed at “counteracting hatred and violence”.

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