German police warned on Thursday of a growing risk of racially motivated attacks on politicians by right-wing radicals angry about an influx of migrants and said crimes directed at refugee shelters were rising dramatically.
The warning came five days after the stabbing of Henriette Reker, a mayoral candidate in the western city of Cologne. She was stabbed in the neck and seriously wounded on the eve of Sunday's election, which she won. Media say she has been woken from an artificially induced coma and will make a full recovery.
Germany is struggling to cope with the arrival of an expected 800,000 to 1 million migrants this year, many from war zones in the Middle East, and politicians are openly worrying about a potential rise in right-wing radicalism.
That concern has been accompanied by a drop in support for conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has opened the door to Syrian refugees, and a rise in the popularity of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Support for the right-wing AfD has climbed to 8 percent, its highest level in a year, a poll by Infratest dimap for German broadcaster ARD showed on Thursday, while Merkel's conservative bloc was down two percentage points from a survey published on Oct. 1 at 38 percent.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told German broadcaster RTL the AfD was an "openly radical right-wing" party, along with the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), and added that they used the same language as Hitler's Nazis when they talked about "putting politicians against the wall".
The BKA federal police said that in the third quarter alone, 285 offences against asylum-seekers' shelters had been reported, compared with 198 for the whole of last year. The crimes included arson, criminal damage and incitement.
This year, 576 crimes involving refugee housing were reported, including 46 actual or attempted arson attacks, up from six last year.
The BKA said that, although it was unaware of any concrete plans for an attack, a picture had emerged of rabble-rousing propaganda which created a climate conducive to such violence.
"It is feared that people with political responsibility and those who make property available to asylum seekers will become the focus of perpetrators," said a BKA spokesman.
Cologne's new mayor Reker is known to have helped refugees and media said her attacker has links to right-wing radicals. Reker ran in the election as an independent with the support of Merkel's conservatives, liberal Free Democrats and Greens.
There has been a spate of hate tirades against politicians. Earlier this week, suspected right-wing radicals painted gallows on a container in Leipzig targeting Social Democrat mayor, Burkhard Jung, with the slogan: "We will get you, mayor Jung".
That followed an anti-Islam PEGIDA rally earlier this month in which a demonstrator held up a mock gallows with nooses marked for Merkel and her deputy, Gabriel.
Gabriel told RTL there was a "huge" amount of hatred towards refugees and politicians at the moment.
"In such tense times, people like me get threatening phone calls and death threats by post. I'm not scared even though they're increasing," he said.
In a raid earlier on Thursday, police in the southern town of Bamberg arrested three people known to have a right-wing background on suspicion of forming a criminal group.
Media reported that police believed they had been planning a racially-motivated attack. They cited sources as saying the suspects had ordered several kilograms of fireworks from eastern Europe and that police had seized firearms and other dangerous objects in raids on some 12 properties in northern Bavaria.
(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Michelle Martin in Berlin and Peter Maushagen in Frankfurt, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Richard Balmforth)