World Bulletin / News Desk
German populist party AfD was caught in a new storm Thursday after it emerged that a recently elected Berlin deputy had called refugees "disgusting worms" while another key member sold Nazi paraphernalia.
AfD candidate Kay Nerstheimer was elected on Sunday to Berlin's state parliament, but quickly came under pressure over controversial posts he made on Facebook as well as his background as a former member of the far-right German Defence League.
After labelling Syrian refugees "disgusting worms" last year, he said this year that asylum seekers were "parasites which are feeding off the German people", national media reported.
Public outrage over the offensive statements forced the Berlin chapter of the AfDto distance itself Thursday from Nerstheimer, who had garnered one in four votes in the capital's suburban electoral district of Lichtenberg 1.
The party decided to drop him from its parliamentary group, but he would still be able to keep his seat in Berlin's parliament as an independent deputy, said Ronald Glaeser, spokesman for AfD's Berlin chapter.
The AfD, however, has not launched any proceedings to kick Nerstheimer out of the party altogether, he added.
In western Germany, the party is battling another controversy after Stern weekly and broadcaster ARD published reports accusing AfD member Rudolf Mueller of selling Nazi paraphernalia.
Mueller, who is the AfD's lead candidate for next year's state elections in the western state of Saarland, was selling money from Nazi concentration camps and swastika medals at his antiques shop, the reports said.
An undercover buyer for Stern was able to buy both items at the shop while another posing for ARD did so a few days later.
Under German law, it is illegal to trade in Nazi paraphernalia.
Saarland authorities on Thursday said they have launched an investigation against Mueller over the reported sale.
Reacting to the accusations, Mueller told ARD that he did not know that trade in swastika medals was against the law, although he acknowledged that it was "not befitting" for a leading candidate of the AfD to be making such sales.
He defended the sale of banknotes from concentration camps, saying it only "generated small amounts that adds to sales of other regular items."
The AfD was formed more than three years ago by economics professor Bernd Lucke as an anti-euro party.
But Lucke was forced out of the party this year, heralding its transformation into an anti-migrant and Islamophobic party, capitalising on public anger over the million refugees who arrived in Germany last year.
It rejects being labelled as an extremist or neo-Nazi party, but its members have been caught out for offensive speech on several occasions.
Different factions within the party are also jostling for power, with the more moderate branch led by co-chief Joerg Meuthen, while joint leader Frauke Petry is seen as pandering to the far-right wing.
The rivalry between Meuthen and Petry burst into the open in July when one of the party's regional lawmakers, Wolfgang Gedeon, sparked a storm with anti-Semitic remarks, including calling Holocaust deniers "dissidents".
Meuthen then threatened to step down from the AfD state assembly if Gedeon failed to quit, while Petry did not openly condemn Gedeon's comments.
The controversies have not halted a surge in support for the party.
It is now represented on the opposition benches of 10 of Germany's 16 state assemblies, and is eyeing seats in national parliament when the country holds general elections next year.
Latest surveys credit it with backing of around 14 percent nationwide.
Officials, who are presently in Saudi Arabia, are instructed to return to country
However Mattis appeared satisfied after what he described as an in-depth review of the policy by much of the president's cabinet and top security officials at Camp David on Friday.
Another eight people were wounded in the stabbing spree, which took place on Friday in the southwestern port city of Turku.
A coalition led by President Hashim Thaci's PDK party -- itself in power since 2007 -- topped early parliamentary polls held on June 11, but the alliance did not win the absolute majority needed to govern alone.
According to the Italian media, an extra 50 police carrying portable scanners were on duty to carry out checks on the 10,000 people who were in St Peter's square Sunday for Pope Francis's weekly Angelus prayer.
Barzani says postponement of Kurdish referendum on independence 'unlikely'
The president had flown to South Africa on Wednesday to attend a two-day regional leaders' summit in Pretoria that began Saturday -- which police said she had been expected to attend.
Local media says 3 armed men were reportedly spotted on Paris-Nimes train
Opposition protesters call for change in country's constitution, want term limits
Police said they had cast a dragnet for 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub, who media reports say was the driver of a van that smashed into people on Barcelona's busy Las Ramblas boulevard on Thursday.
In perhaps the worst to date, he dealt a crushing blow to his own embattled administration by saying "both sides" were to blame for the bloodshed in Charlottesville, Virginia following a rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
A so-called "free speech" rally by far-right groups had been scheduled to run until 2 pm (1800 GMT), but a half-hour before that police escorted its participants -- whose numbers appeared to be in the dozens -- to safety past a throng of anti-racism protesters.
Comments appearing to trivialize racial hatred have president isolated, even within own party
The accident happened late Friday when around 650 people were celebrating inside the tent in Sankt Johann am Walde in the north of the country.
The Trump administration, wary of international involvements but eager for progress in the grueling Afghan war, has been weighing a range of options. It had originally promised a new plan by mid-July.
Melika Salihbeg Bosnawi, an important poet and intellectual of Bosnia and Herzegovina, died at the age of 72