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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

June 24, 2020
image: AP

Looters shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as they ransacked shops in Stuttgart on Saturday night and most of those arrested came from a 'migrant background', it has emerged.

Yobs attacked police with stones and bottles after a German teenager was arrested for a drugs offence in clashes which quickly escalated into the city's worst-ever night of rioting.

Of the 24 people arrested, 12 were foreign nationals while three of the other 12 were German nationals with a migrant background, police announced at a press conference on Sunday.

Hans-Jürgen Kirstein, the head of a police union, told Bild that 'young people with a migration background were at the front of the riots'.

German chancellor Angela Merkel today condemned the violence as 'abhorrent' after even paramedics were attacked with bottles while trying to help an injured person.

Police say there was no sign of a political motivation, blaming alcohol and the 'party scene' for the outbreak of violence - although some have linked the riots to the anti-police protests in the United States.

Footage verified by German media showed some of the rioters chanting 'Allahu Akbar', meaning 'God is great' in Arabic, as they ran down a street during the night-time violence.

Muslim blogger Nasir Ahmad condemned the rioters for 'abusing' the phrase, saying it is meant to be 'not a call to terror, but call to prayer and peace'.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said today: 'Whoever has done this has turned against their city, against the people with whom they live and against the laws that protect us all.'

Stuttgart's deputy police chief Thomas Berger said that the hundreds of young looters had come from the 'party scene' and the 'Saturday night scene'.

In his 30 years as a police officer he had never seen violence like this and 'there have never been any scenes like this in Stuttgart,' he said.

Berger said the violence had erupted during a 'totally normal' encounter in which police arrested a white German teenager on suspicion of a drugs offence.

Some 200 to 300 people immediately started attacking police in 'solidarity' with the teenager, and the crowd of rioters eventually grew as high as 500, he said.

The rioters even threw bottles at paramedics who had been called to an 'emergency' at the scene, he said. German media has described the scenes as a 'battlefield'.

19 police officers were hurt and the number could yet rise because some of them may not have reported their injuries at the time, it is believed.

Police said 40 shops had been attacked while 12 police vehicles were damaged, some of them so badly that they had to be taken out of service.

Police chief Franz Lutz told a press conference that 'at the moment we can rule out a left-wing or indeed any political motivation' for the violence.

However, the 'party scene' which has re-emerged after the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown has recently seen a growing anti-police sentiment in social media posts, he said.

Police forces have been the subject of widespread anger around the world since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

Crowds in Stuttgart threw stones and bottles while smaller groups ran through surrounding streets breaking shop windows, according to officers.

Police said 40 businesses were vandalised and nine of them looted before the violence was finally brought under control at around 4.30am.

'These are unbelievable scenes which have left me speechless and which I've not experienced in my 46 years in the police,' Lutz said.

'There was a never-before-seen dimension of open violence against police and massive property damage,' he said.

'It is a sad day for Stuttgart and also for the police.'

Thomas Strobl, the interior minister of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg which includes Stuttgart, said the 'pictures reaching us from America may have led to a certain aggression'.

Speaking to regional broadcaster SWR, he said authorities would respond with 'everything that the rule of law provides us with' to track down and punish the rioters.

The foreign nationals arrested included suspected rioters from Bosnia, Portugal, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

German police and media have increasingly tended to state a suspect's nationality after a controversy over New Year's Eve attacks on women in Cologne in 2015, when it was not initially revealed that some of the suspects were asylum seekers.

Allegations of a cover-up helped to spur the rise of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which enjoyed a rise in the polls after Merkel opened Germany's doors to a million refugees in 2015.

Stuttgart mayor Fritz Kuhn, a member of the Green party, called this weekend's attacks on police 'unacceptable'.

He said that more people were on the street on Saturday night because many clubs and discos remained closed because of coronavirus.

'One cause was likely alcohol, another the addiction to social media film clips,' Kuhn said.

Video taken on mobile phones circulated widely on social media, with police asking witnesses to upload footage that could assist their investigation.
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