German police: Arsonists may have set ablaze planned refugee housing

A fire at planned refugee accommodation in eastern Germany could have been started deliberately, police said Sunday, adding that the case was now being handled by a specialist department for extremist crimes.

Crowds of onlookers, some of them drunk, watched flames engulf a disused hotel in the town of Bautzen early Sunday and responded with "derogatory comments or blatant glee," police said.

Officers had to clear some of the people aside because they were obstructing fire safety officials as they tried to put out the blaze.

No casualties were reported.

No arrests have yet been made, regional investigators and Bernd Merbitz, police chief in the nearby city of Leipzig, told dpa.

The case has been handed over to the city's OAZ division, which is responsible for investigating crimes of an extremist nature, they said.

The incident came just days after up to 100 angry protesters prevented migrants from getting off a bus and entering accommodation in Clausnitz, south-west of Bautzen.

Both of the towns are situated in the state of Saxony. The state premier, Stanislaw Tillich, sharply criticized the mob-like behaviour in both cases as "disgusting and abhorrent" in comments to the Funke media group.

Unauthorized protests and arson attacks have become a common occurrence at refugee shelters in Germany, which received 1.1 million asylum seekers last year. This has led to a spike in anti-foreigner sentiment as local authorities struggle to cope with the influx.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that a line had been "clearly crossed" in Saxony, where the number of crimes against migrants is particularly high.

"It is totally unacceptable for people coming to us seeking refuge from persecution to be greeted with hate and harassment," de Maiziere said. He called on the authorities to explain the exact circumstances of the migrant-related incidents.

There are also heightened tensions among some of the asylum seekers living in refugee shelters.

Early Sunday, a 20-year-old asylum seeker was stabbed and killed by a fellow resident in a Bavarian refugee centre, police said.

Emergency services workers found the victim seriously injured in his room in a container set up for migrants. He died at the scene.

The alleged attacker surrendered himself to authorities.

Last update: Sun, 21/02/2016 - 16:15

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