Warning from Ankara: Turkey Suspicious After German House Fire
The Turkish government is demanding a detailed investigation into a housefire which killed eight people with Turkish backgrounds in the southern German town of Backnang on Sunday morning. The suspicion shows that trust has not yet returned between Ankara and Berlin.
German officials say that initial investigations show no sign of a xenophobic arson attack. But following a devastating fire early Sunday morning in the southern German town of Backnang -- in which eight people with Turkish backgrounds were killed, including seven children -- Turkey is demanding that all doubt about the cause of the fire be removed.
"Unfortunately, there have in the past been arson attacks and murders perpetrated against our citizens" Turkish President Abdullah Gül said on Monday, according to reports in the Turkish media. "That's why we are considering all possibilities."
Gül isn't alone in his concern. On Sunday, Ankara's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag struck a similar tone. "It fills us with grief," he tweeted, in reference to the fire. "From Germany, we expect a clarification for the real cause of the fire which leaves no room for doubt." In addition, two politicians from Turkey's opposition Republican People's Party traveled to Germany on Sunday to gain a first-hand impression of the investigation.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also released a statement saying Ankara expects a detailed investigation. DITIB, the largest Muslim association in Germany, likewise urged speed and thoroughness. "Unnecessary speculation can only be avoided by way of a rapid, transparent and credible conclusion to the investigation," the group said in a statement.
Investigators were quick to conclude that the blaze was not likely the result of arson, a swift conclusion DITIB officials found unseemly. The early comments about the possible cause of the fire, the group said, "did not sound credible."
The fire began in the early morning hours of Sunday in the town just northeast of Stuttgart. According to news reports, by the time fire fighters reached the site -- a former leather factory which had been converted into residential apartments -- flames were already shooting out of the windows. The seven children who lost their lives were between six months and 16 years old. The eighth victim was their 40-year-old mother, according to German news reports. Three additional children survived the fire and the father was not home at the time of the blaze.
Initial suspicion focused on a wood stove in the apartment though on Monday officials were investigating whether faulty wiring could be to blame after a previous tenant reported having had repeated electrical problems. The investigation will take at least several days and could last weeks, officials said on Monday.
The apartment where the fire began is located above a German-Turkish cultural center. According to media reports, the operator of a nearby bar saved the three children who survived.
The warnings from Ankara highlight the mistrust between Germany and its Turkish minority, particularly following the revelation in late 2011 that a series of murders targeting victims of Turkish background had been committed by a neo-Nazi terror cell. For a decade prior to that case's resolution, officials had suspected that the victims had belonged to an impenetrable Turkish underworld. The German press had often referred to the killings with the disparaging moniker, the "Döner murders" because some of the victims had owned fast food restaurants selling döner kebabs.
Merkel Deeply Shaken
In addition, Turkish immigrants were the target of several deadly arson attacks in the years immediately following German reunification, particularly in Mölln in 1992 and Solingen in 1993. A total of eight people died in those fires.
German officials appear to be taking the Sunday morning fire very seriously. Governor Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg, the state where the fire took place, traveled to Backnang on Sunday together with Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Hüseyin Avni Karslioglu. The state's interior minister, Reinhold Gall, likewise visited the site of the fire.
Angela Merkel also voiced her grief on Monday. The chancellor's deputy spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters that she was deeply shaken by the news and that the Chancellery has offered all assistance necessary to the government of Baden-Württemberg. "The chancellor has no doubt that the officials responsible will not rest until the cause of the fire has been clarified," Streiter said.
cgh -- with wire stories
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