Reports of mobs of migrants being responsible for violence and arson in a German city at New Year have been slammed by police, politicians and local media as fake.
Right-wing site Breitbart published a story, headlined “Revealed: 1,000-Man Mob Attack Police, Set Germany’s Oldest Church Alight on New Year’s Eve”, claiming men chanting “Allahu Akhbar” were responsible for chaos in Dortmund.
It claimed that the group “pelt[ed]” police with fireworks and chanted “around the flag of al-Qaeda and Islamic State collaborators, the ‘Free Syrian Army’”.
At the time of publication the story had been shared on Facebook more than 16,000 times.
But local police said that claims that New Year’s Eve in the city was anything other than quiet “absolutely don’t correspond to reality”.
According to the Associated Press, a spokeswoman for Dortmund police said that about 1,000 people had gathered in a square to celebrate New Year with fireworks - as is customary in Germany.
A handful of officers were injured by flying fireworks but none were attacked, she said.
The spokeswoman, Nina Vogt, said a firework also struck some netting on scaffolding close to the Reinoldi Church, but the small fire was quickly extinguished.
“There’s no indication it was directed there on purpose,” she said. Contrary to various reports on English-language websites, the church is not Germany’s oldest.
While there were several arrests and violent incidents in Dortmund, that wasn’t unusual for a city of almost 600,000, she said.
“New Year’s Eve night really was pretty quiet,” Vogt told The Associated Press. Reports to the contrary “absolutely don’t correspond to reality,” she said.
The AFP reported that local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, had also spoken out about the story.
The paper said elements of its online reporting had been taken and distorted by Breitbart to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda”.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily also slammed the story, saying that the publication had exaggerated details and made factual errors.
Hesse state’s justice minister Eva Kühne-Hörmann, said that “the danger is that these stories spread with incredible speed and take on lives of their own”.
The AFP said that Breitbart had declined to comment.