German PEGIDA Group Says Paris Shooting Shows Islamist Threat

People take part in a march of a grass-roots anti-Muslim movement in Cologne January 5, 2015. Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Germany's new anti-immigration movement seized on Wednesday's deadly attack by militants on a Paris magazine, saying it highlighted the threat of Islamist violence it has been warning against.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government have condemned the grassroots movement PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, which drew a record crowd of 18,000 to its latest rally on Monday in Dresden.

Gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a French satirical magazine known for lampooning radical Islam on Wednesday. At least 12 people were killed in the attack, the worst by militants on French soil in decades. One gunman was seen on video shouting "Allah!" as shots rang out.

"The Islamists, against whom PEGIDA has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of (practicing) democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," PEGIDA wrote on its Facebook page.

"Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true," the group added.

"Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?"

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the attack in Paris had nothing to do with Islam.

"Islamic extremists and Islamic terror are something entirely different from Islam," he said. "It is immensely important to underscore that difference on a day like today."

PEGIDA, which began as a protest movement against plans for new asylum-seekers' shelters, has shaken Germany's establishment with increasingly popular rallies. Political leaders have called on the public to shun its demonstrations, which Merkel said were organized by people with "hatred in their hearts".

Tens of thousands took part in a dozen rallies against PEGIDA on Monday, with counter-demonstrators easily outnumbering anti-Islam marchers in most German cities.

PEGIDA has drawn support from the far right and from ordinary Germans alarmed by a sharp increase in refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in the Middle East.