Radical Islamists attacked police in the western German city of Solingen on Tuesday in protest of a far-right demonstration where anti-Islamic cartoons had been put on display.
Some 30 Salafists were arrested after injuring three police officers and a passerby by throwing stones and wielding poles from protest banners, police said. Pro NRW, categorized as an extremist right-wing group by Germany's domestic intelligence agency, had staged a demonstration near a Salafist mosque in Solingen.
The violence erupted when Pro NRW demonstrators showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad drawn by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. One of his drawings was among a series of cartoons published by Danish newspapers in 2005 that led to worldwide protests by Muslims, who were offended by the pictures. Many Muslims believe that visual depictions of Muhammad should be prohibited.
"Several Salafists wearing turbans suddenly jumped over the cordon and threw stones at police officers and also hit them with flagpoles," police spokeswoman Anja Meis said.
Pro NRW has said it will run a "Muhammad cartoon contest" and put the cartoons on display outside 25 mosques in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The move, a campaign stunt aimed at generating publicity ahead of an election in the state on May 13, has been widely criticized.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned last week that the cartoon contest and the demonstrations near mosques could lead to violent clashes and also endanger German embassies and companies abroad.
Security authorities have voiced concerns that radical Salafists may see the provocation as an opportunity to seek confrontation in order to boost their own profile. Salafists have recently been in the news with a controversial campaign to distribute free copies of the Koran in German cities.