Bomb blasts at a mosque and an international congress centre in the eastern German city of Dresden have overshadowed events marking the 10th anniversary of the forum created to promote dialogue between government and the Muslim community.
The imam, his wife and two sons were in the Fatih Camii mosque at the time of the explosion, which police said on Tuesday was a result of xenophobia.
However, no one was injured in the attacks, which occurred on Monday night, according to police, who found the remains of self-made explosives at both crime scenes.
“Although no one has so far claimed responsibility, we must assume that there was a xenophobic motive,” Dresden police chief Horst Kretschmar said.
Police linked the explosion at the congress centre to next Monday’s celebrations in Dresden marking the 26th anniversary of German unification, which is to be attended by German President Joachim Gauck.
Dresden is the capital of the eastern state of Saxony, which has been a focus of recent anti-foreigner sentiments.
Saxony’s August 2014 regional elections produced a major electoral success for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany when the party won seats in its first state parliament.
The state has also been the scene of several violent clashes outside refugee shelters and is home to the so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida), which hold regular anti-migrant protests in Dresden.
Three years ago, five bloody pig heads were impaled on a wooden stake
on the site of the proposed mosque. Those responsible have never been found.
Germany’s political leaders were quick to condemn the bombings, with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere saying the attacks were “all the more scandalous” because they coincided with ceremonies marking the founding of the German Islam Conference (DIK).
The DIK was set up in 2006 to formalize dialogue between representatives of the German government and the Muslim community.
De Maiziere said he understood that many Muslims in Germany did not wish to apologize for every act of terrorism that is carried out in the name of Islam.
But he said expected more from the Muslim organizations in Germany.
“I think it would be advisable that the security debate becomes more intense and also more public in the future,” he said.
“Political influence from abroad in Germany through religion is something we cannot accept,” said de Maiziere.
However, Muslim leaders attending the DIK forum hit back.
It was wrong, “to brand Muslims as representatives of foreign powers and to speak of them as having a representive role,” said the secretary general of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Bekir Alboga.
About 300 worshippers regularly attend Friday prayers at the Fatih Camii mosque, which is located a short distance from Dresden’s historic centre.
The authorities in Dresden said that they now plan to boost security at the three mosques and Muslim prayer room in the city.
The explosion at the mosque was detonated at 1953 GMT on Monday. The force of the blast pushed the front door of the building inward and left the building covered with soot, police said.
The explosion at the congress centre located about 2 kilometres from the Fatih Camii mosque and directly on the River Elbe, which runs through Dresden, occurred about half an hour later.
The heat caused by the explosion at the centre destroyed the side of a decorative glass cube in an open area in the congress building and resulted in parts of the building being evacuated.(dpa/NAN)