Flames rise into the air, several meters high. A car is on fire right next to a residential building. The flames spread to the treetops, as can be seen in a video published on Twitter. Last Saturday evening there was a fire in Berlin-Neukölln. The 13th case of arson in and around the so-called horseshoe settlement in the south of the capital since October last year.

On Monday, the Berlin police initially saw no evidence of political motivation. In the evening the decision came: The responsible state security in the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) takes over the investigations – a political motivation “can at least not be ruled out”, according to the police to WELT.

The reason: In the area around the Hufeisensiedlung in the south of Neukölln, right-wing extremist incidents have been frequent for years. Most recently, on November 9, the anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass, a swastika was sprayed on a residential building in which a Jewish family lives. In addition, a Jewish woman was attacked in a garden with irritant gas, the police told WELT. The owner of the car in question, however, is not Jewish, according to the police.

There was a “variety of right-wing extremist property damage in the form of graffiti and the attachment of stickers with right-wing extremist narratives” in the area. According to the Berlin police, the “right-wing scene” was “strongly represented” in Neukölln in the past.

It also brings back memories of a series of arson attacks in Neukölln: Between 2016 and 2019, right-wing extremists committed more than 70 crimes here, including at least 14 arson attacks and 35 property damage. People who campaigned against right-wing extremism were affected, including left-wing politician Ferat Koçak and bookseller Heinz Ostermann. Proceedings are currently underway against the right-wing extremists Sebastian T. and Tilo P.; the latter was meanwhile an AfD functionary in Neukölln.

However, the police see no political motives for the twelve arson attacks since October 2021, which is why the LKA is not investigating here. In April and May alone, there were eight arson attacks in the vicinity of the settlement, including two cars and six garbage containers.

“In view of the situation on site and the multiple arson attacks since October alone, one can assume that this fire may also be the fault of the right-wing extremists,” says Orkan Özdemir from the SPD parliamentary group in the WELT House of Representatives. “Apparently there is a very active right-wing extremist network on site that has been terrorizing the people of the Hufeisensiedlung and beyond for many years.”

Anne Helm, leader of the Left in the House of Representatives, said it hit her when she thinks about “what people are going through now who were affected by the far-right attacks and threats at the time, so who have experienced all of this before”.

“The arson that took place on Saturday evening confirms the urgency of the forthcoming committee of inquiry into the so-called ‘series of attacks’ in Neukölln,” said André Schulze, deputy leader of the Greens. Nevertheless, Schulze emphasizes, nothing can be said about the background and a connection to the previous crimes at the moment.

The House of Representatives has set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the series of attacks in Neukölln. Here possible failures of the authorities are to be worked up. AfD candidates failed last Thursday in the election for membership in the committee.

They want clarity about “the reasons and possible structural deficiencies in the security authorities so that there were so many glitches in order to learn from them for the future and to prevent a repetition,” said Helm von der Linken. For example, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned the police of possible attacks on Koçak, but they did nothing.

The AfD, meanwhile, fears “police bashing” in the committee of inquiry: “The police enjoy a high level of trust, which must not be damaged,” said Karsten Woldeit, AfD parliamentary group vice-president in the House of Representatives, who ran unsuccessfully for the committee. The party is now suing the state constitutional court against the refusal of membership, which it is entitled to under the Investigative Committee Act.

Woldeit distances himself from the party membership of one of the suspects in the series of attacks. “If he hadn’t resigned of his own accord, we would have thrown him out,” said the parliamentary group leader. “This way of thinking doesn’t suit us.”

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