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Poll: Most Germans feel safe despite Berlin attack

By Frank Jordans Associated Press

BERLIN – Most Germans say they think their country is a safe place despite the recent truck attack in Berlin that claimed 12 lives shortly before Christmas, according to a new poll.

The poll published late Thursday by public broadcaster ARD found that 73 percent of respondents said they felt secure in Germany, compared with 26 percent who didn’t. One percent of those surveyed declined to state an opinion.

The sentiment held true for supporters of all major political parties except those backing the nationalist Alternative for Germany, where 66 percent said they feared for their safety.

The party, known by its acronym AfD, has tried to blame Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government for a series of attacks committed by asylum seekers last year.

New Year’s Eve robberies and sexual assaults in Cologne, a stabbing and a bombing in Bavaria in July, and the truck attack last month have fed tensions about Merkel’s immigration policy, which saw Germany take in hundreds of thousands of migrants over the last two years.

Investigators say a 24-year-old Tunisian man steered the truck that ploughed into a busy Christmas market in the heart of Berlin on Dec. 19. Anis Amri, who had been rejected for asylum, was killed days later by Italian police after evading a Europe-wide manhunt despite crossing four borders on his way from Berlin to Milan.

The survey for the broadcaster also asked respondents whether they believe Germany is “well protected from terrorist attacks.” Some 57 percent said it was. The figure has fluctuated by only a few points since December 2015, when it stood at 54 percent.

Pollsters at Infratest Dimap questioned 1,005 people by phone on Jan. 2-3 and said the poll had a margin of error of up to 3.1 percent.

Using a larger sample of 1,505 respondents, the company also asked Germans about their voting intentions for this year’s general election. Support for AfD grew two points from a month earlier to 15 percent. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Union bloc also saw its support rise two points to 37 percent.

The center-left Social Democrats, who polled two points lower this month with 20 percent, sought to reclaim ground Friday by suggesting that Germany should engage in a “cultural battle” with extreme forms of Islam.

Party leader Sigmar Gabriel told weekly Der Spiegel that he favors banning Salafist mosques and deporting preachers who advocate violence.

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