Three arrested in fatal arson attack

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The Independent Online
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BERLIN - German police have arrested a second teenager and two other young men as suspects in the reunited country's worst neo-Nazi attack, an MP said yesterday.

A week after the arson attack killed five Turks, Germans were searching for ways to keep more people from veering toward right-wing crimes.

The latest arrests could radically alter the background of the attack, if it is proven that the killings last Saturday in Solingen were the work of a gang rather than a lone misfit. Four suspects are now in jail.

The chief federal prosecutor, Alexander von Stahl, informed a parliamentary committee about the three arrests, Hans-Gottfried Bernrath, an MP, told Germany's ARD television. Mr Bernrath said the male suspects range in age from 17 to the 23, though security sources said the youngest of the three picked up yesterday was 16.

All four suspects belong to the 'skinhead scene' of neo-Nazis in the western German city, according to the sources. They added that tips from local residents aided police in their search for the suspects.

MPs discussed ways the government can mobilise to combat right-wing extremist violence, Mr Bernrath said after the closed-door session. 'This is a political and social problem that we must all work on,' he said. 'People can't just keep shrugging their shoulders.' Mr Bernrath said the mother of one of the suspects was also 'involved in the right-wing extremist scene'. And, he added: 'There hasn't been any reaction to that.' The youth and his mother lived near the site of the killings.

Mainstream Germans, distraught Turks and others have demanded a harsh governmental crackdown against neo-Nazis. However, some politicians have laid the blame for the right-wingers' actions on the failures of society as a whole. Young men, often those without much education or training, form a high percentage of the neo-Nazi troublemakers.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has been criticised at home and abroad for failing to curb the neo-Nazi violence, met a Turkish government delegation yesterday and promised to seek a halt to the troubles.

ARD television said all four of those arrested in the attack had been drinking heavily and attacked the Turks' home after being tossed out of a local bar. Police have described the killings as a firebombing. However, according to ARD, the 23-year-old suspect told police he and the three others forced their way into the house and used petrol to set a chest of drawers on fire. The blaze quickly spread and virtually gutted the house.

ARD showed a helicopter landing in Karlsruhe with the handcuffed suspects. German news media have identified the first suspect arrested as 16-year-old Christian Riha of Solingen. The youth reportedly was heard shouting 'Heil Hitler]' shortly before the attack that killed two Turkish women and three girls. They were buried in Turkey yesterday.