MAINZ, Germany — Police are investigating the alleged assault of an Iraqi asylum seeker who was dragged out of a store and tied to a tree by a local "vigilante" group in Germany.
The incident took place on May 21 near Dresden but the probe comes after a video circulated on social media showing the alleged incident.
Police issued a statement Thursday appealing for information and saying three suspects — aged 29, 49 and 45 — have been identified.
Officers responding to a 911 call on May 21 found the Iraqi zip-tied to a tree in the parking lot of the supermarket, according to the statement.
It said the suspects were initially questioned by police and allowed to leave the scene after telling officers they had "prevented a threat situation" following an altercation inside the supermarket.
The police statement said the video which circulated on social media was shared mainly on "asylum-critical" forums and a female voice off-camera appeared to mention a "vigilante group."
Eyewitnesses in the eastern town of Arnsdorf told police that the asylum seeker, who has not been named, visited the store three times to complain about a prepaid cellphone card that was not working.
The situation escalated after the manager told him his card's balance was empty and the man allegedly threatened employees with a wine bottle he took from the shelves, according to police.
Local media reported he was a patient at a psychiatric clinic.
A video purportedly of the incident and posted by the local Sächsische Zeitung newspaper appears to show a man in the store speaking with employees and holding a wine bottle by his side. A group of men then come into the building and a scuffle ensues before the man holding wine is forcibly dragged out.
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According to the newspaper, one of the suspects is a local councilor from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party. Detlef Oelsner told the newspaper that he and the other two men "only interfered because the Iraqi repeatedly threatened the employees at the supermarket."
“We showed courage and would have done the same in any other incident, even if he’d been a German,” the newspaper quoted Oelsner as saying.
The incident comes amid a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany, which has took in more than 1 million refugees and migrants last year — more than any other European country.