‘Ramadan row’ behind fire at German refugee shelter

A quarrel over meal times during Ramadan likely sparked an arson attack that destroyed a German refugee shelter

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A quarrel over meal times during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan likely sparked an arson attack that destroyed a German refugee shelter, said a report Thursday quoting prosecutors.

The huge blaze in the western city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday completely razed a hall that housed 282 male asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North African countries, with 28 people suffering from smoke inhalation.

Police said Thursday they had detained five men, several of whom had stayed in the shelter using false identity details.

Two were suspected of the arson attack -- a Moroccan and an Algerian, both aged 26 -- and were remanded in custody by a judge.
One of the men had allegedly poured a flammable liquid onto a mattress and set it alight.

Witnesses reported that there had been recurring tensions between followers of different religions in the Red Cross-run facility.

"During this time of Ramadan, there was one group that wanted to strictly observe the fast, and another that insisted on the usual timetables and usual servings," said Ralf Herrenbrueck, spokesman for the prosecutors service.

"This had led on several occasions to disputes and altercations with officials of the German Red Cross," he said in an interview with public broadcaster WDR.

"It got to the point where threats were made over what would happen if things didn't change, and one threat was obviously implemented."

Since the start of the year, police had been called 89 times to the 6,000-square-metre (65,000 square feet) hall, which was formerly part of the city's congress center, reports said.

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