Merkel cuts short vacation as Germany reels from series of attacks   

Chancellor Angela Merkel will break her summer vacation and return to Berlin on Thursday for a press conference following a series of attacks, two of them claimed by Islamic State, that have shaken Germany.

Politicians from the southern state of Bavaria, where three of the four attacks took place, called Tuesday for tough new measures to monitor refugees and to deport failed asylum seekers.

The Islamic State extremist group was waging a battle against "the freedom of the Western world and our way of life," declared Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann ahead of a state cabinet summer retreat.

He was speaking after a 27-year-old Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up at a weekend concert and a 17-year-old Afghan refugee attacked passengers on a regional Bavarian train and a passer-by with an axe and a knife. Both attacks were claimed by Islamic State.

Ministers in Bavaria are calling for electronic ankle tags for extremists considered threats to public safety, stepping up monitoring of refugee homes, ramping up police numbers as well as breaking a taboo and returning failed asylum seekers to crisis zones.

The Syrian bomber named in the German media as Mohammad Daleel was denied asylum in Germany in late 2014.

Germany faced a "new dimension of terror," said Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, who also heads the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian-based allies of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.

Merkel, who left for her holiday home in Uckermark, north of the German capital on Friday, was forced to return to Berlin on Saturday to make a statement after an 18-year-old German-Iranian launched a shooting spree in Munich in which nine people were killed. He then turned the gun on himself.

The chancellor, who subsequently returned to Uckermark, normally holds her annual press conference after her summer vacation. But the attacks have forced her to bring it forward to Thursday.

Merkel's last annual press conference was held on August 31, 2015.

The decision to hold the press conference also underlines the political pressure on Merkel after she opened Germany's borders in September to allow a large influx of refugees.

Her open-border policy on refugees in particular placed her on a collision course with the CSU, which called on her to impose tighter border controls.

Herrmann repeated that demand at a press conference on Tuesday saying that "there cannot be an open-border policy," and adding that refugees without identity papers should be held at the border.

The chancellor has already tightened asylum rules and introduced measures to speed up deportations of failed asylum seekers.

But the attacks over the last week have helped to reignite the debate in the country about how to deal with criminal migrants, which first flared up in January after a string of sexual assaults in Cologne where hundreds of women said they were sexually harassed or assaulted by men with apparent foreign background.

Thomas Strobl, the interior minister of Baden-Wuerttembuerg state, where a woman was killed and five people were injured by a 21-year-old Syrian refugee, also demanded a tougher stance against asylum seekers.

"The rising number of migrants has coincided with a rise in the absolute number of crimes committed by this group of people," Strobl told Funke media group, but he added that this should not result in blanket suspicion of refugees.

Last update: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 18:42
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