Arson Suspected After Refugee Shelter Burns in Germany

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By Tim Stelloh

Authorities in Germany, believe arson was behind a Saturday night fire that damaged a former hotel that was being converted to a refugee shelter — as bystanders cheered the flames.

Two people who were taken into custody for "impeding the firefight," a local police spokesman said, while a third person was “expelled” from the scene.

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“Bystanders have been watching the events, partly cheering, partly jeering,” the spokesman said.

The fire broke out overnight in the small east German city of Bautzen. Video showed the roof of the building, The Husarenhof, engulfed in flames, though firefighters on fully extended ladders appeared to have the blaze under control.

Authorities said that evidence of an accelerant had been found in the building, according to the Associated Press. No injuries were reported.

The fire comes amid a historic influx of refugees and migrants fleeing Syria and elsewhere, and a once open door policy championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel that has inflamed right-wing nationalists.

After a string of sexual assaults in the western city of Cologne on New Year’s Eve were committed by men that police described as “North African,” protests were held protests in the eastern city of Leipzig. Some held signs denouncing "rapefugees."

A poster held up during a march of right-wing populist group Pegida in Leipzig, Germany.Getty Images

On Jan. 29, a grenade was lobbed onto the grounds of a refugee reception center on the other side of the country, in Villinge. The pin had been pulled but there was no blast, and no injuries were reported.

The Associated Press contributed.