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Blast damages pro-immigrant German councilor’s car

FILE - In this June 26, 2015 file photo Refugee children stand in front of a police car near the accommodation for immigrants in Freital near Dresden, eastern Germany. The head of the German Police Union is calling for a ban on demonstrations within a kilometer of centers housing refugees amid a string of violent incidents. Germany is seeing a rise in anti-foreigner attacks and vandalism amid a spike in asylum applications, which are expected to double this year. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

BERLIN (AP) — German police said Monday they were investigating an early-morning explosion that damaged the car of a left-wing politician who had been working in support of refugees in a Dresden suburb that has seen anti-immigrant demonstrations.

The incident comes amid increasing tensions in the area and elsewhere in Germany following a growing influx of refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and also from the Balkans. The number of asylum applications is expected to at least double this year from around 200,000 in 2014.

Police said it wasn’t yet clear what caused the explosion that damaged the car of the opposition Left Party’s Michael Richter, a town councilor in the Dresden surburb of Freital, but that detectives were treating it as intentional. No one was hurt.

In the first half of 2015, Germany has seen almost as many far-right crimes against refugee accomodation as in all of 2014, according to the Interior Ministry. Of the 173 crimes recorded, 19 were violent.

Incidents have been reported in recent weeks in several regions, primarily vandalism against new refugee homes being built.

In Freital, there were protest recently against a new asylum home and clashes with pro-refugee activists.

Antje Feiks, a senior official in the regional branch of the Left Party, suggested that the right-wing Pegida movement, which has staged regular rallies in Dresden, has stirred up more violent anti-immigrant sentiment in the area, even though its support has waned.

The rallies “have fueled a racist sentiment in which people are motivated and legitimized to use violence,” she said.

On Sunday, vandals broke half a dozen windows in a hotel in another part of Dresden that is being converted to house refugees starting this week, and on Friday supporters of a far-right party clashed with backers of a new camp for refugees in the city.

The incidents prompted Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union, to call for a ban on demonstrations within a kilometer of centers housing refugees.

“People who flee persecution have the right not to look into the faces of those throwing stones,” Wendt told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper.

The Defense Ministry on Monday announced a plan for six former barracks vacated by the military to be been made available for refugee housing, and two further barracks still in use to be partly used for refugee housing.

Lt. Col. Boris Nannt said the eight barracks will provide room for 3,500 refugees.

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Frank Jordans and Geir Moulson contributed to this story.

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