BERLIN (Reuters) - Anti-immigrant groups in Germany seized on Wednesday’s deadly attack in Paris, with leaders of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and PEGIDA saying it showed the threat of Islamist violence.
Twelve people were killed when gunmen stormed the offices of a French satirical magazine known for lampooning radical Islam.
“This bloodbath proves wrong those who laughed or ignored the fears of so many people about a looming danger of Islamism,” said Alexander Gauland, a regional AfD leader. “This gives new clout to PEGIDA demands.”
PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, itself reacted strongly to the Paris attack.
“The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of (practicing) democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution,” PEGIDA wrote on its Facebook page.
“Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true,” the group added.
“Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?”
A top ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned as “sleaze” the eurosceptic AfD’s comments.
“It’s sleaze to instrumentalize the attack for political aims,” Parliamentary floor leader Volker Kauder told Focus magazine online.
Merkel and her government have condemned the grassroots movement PEGIDA, which drew a record crowd of 18,000 to its latest rally on Monday in Dresden.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Wednesday the attack in Paris had nothing to do with Islam.
“Islamic extremists and Islamic terror are something entirely different from Islam,” he said. “It is immensely important to underscore that difference on a day like today.”
PEGIDA, which began as a protest movement against plans for new asylum-seekers’ shelters, has shaken Germany’s establishment with its increasingly popular rallies.
National leaders have called on the public to shun its demonstrations, which Merkel said were organized by people with “hatred in their hearts”.
PEGIDA has drawn support from the far right and from ordinary Germans alarmed by a sharp increase in refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in the Middle East.
Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Noah Barkin and Andrew Roche