Hand grenade thrown at refugee shelter in Germany in latest attack on asylum seekers in wake of Cologne assaults

Asylum seekers were asleep in the building at the time and police said it was just 'luck' that the grenade did not detonate

A hand grenade was thrown into a refugee shelter in Germany overnight as officials said attacks against asylum seekers in the country hit a new level of “hate and violence”.

Police in the southern town of Villingen-Schwenningen said it was “just luck” that the device did not explode when it landed at 1.15am.

Around 20 asylum seekers were sleeping inside the building at the time and were evacuated while a bomb squad destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Andreas Stenger, of State Office of Criminal Investigation shows a model hand grenade after an attack on a refugee shelter January 29, 2016 in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.

Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, said the attack represented a new level of “hate and violence” that must be addressed by local and federal authorities.

“Grenades are already being thrown at refugee homes - we can't wait until there is someone dead,” he added. 

“We need to do everything we can to ensure xenophobic crimes are more rapidly solved and punished more severely.”

A police spokesperson said there were no immediate implications of a motive and that investigators are following “all avenues” as forensic tests and interviews are carried out.

Police officers of the crime scene investigation unit examine a refugee shelter in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany, 29 January 2016.

Attacks targeting refugees on their homes appear to have spiked in Germany following mass sexual assaults carried out mainly by migrants in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

Several asylum seekers were badly beaten earlier this month after a vigilant group vowed to “clean up” the city, which has also seen thousands-strong protests by Pegida and other far-right groups.

In another assault near Dresden, a man wearing a swastika-emblazoned helmet and “Hitler moustache” attacked two Afghan men while they were sledging, and protesters on a violent rampage through Leipzig started fires and smashed windows.

Hundreds of incidents and plots had already been recorded before the Cologne assaults – mainly arson attacks on refugee accommodation, where Swastikas and anti-immigration have also been daubed.

Explosives were uncovered by police who prevented a planned neo-Nazi assault on refugee centres with knives, baseball bats and guns in October.

Villingen-Schwenningen lies in Baden-Württemberg – one of two German states that have started taking refugees’ valuables and cash in controversial seizures also seen in Switzerland and Denmark.

Around 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year and the Government is now taking steps to restrict numbers after criticism of Angela Merkel’s decision to welcome all Syrian refugees.

Additional reporting by PA