German police say they're "in disbelief" over a false story published by Breitbart, which a local publication claims was trying to create "an image of chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors." The AFP reports Breitbart ran a story titled "1,000-man mob attack police, set Germany's oldest church alight on New Year's Eve." The article claimed a mob gathered "around the flag of al-Qaida and Islamic State collaborators the Free Syrian Army" while chanting "Allahu akbar." The story also claimed people threw fireworks at families, children, and police, heavily suggesting Muslim migrants were the culprits, according to the Washington Post. It was a strange report considering police in Dortmund, where the events supposedly took place, say it was an "average to quiet" New Year's Eve.
A local newspaper says Breitbart created its story by twisting and combining unrelated events in its coverage to create "fake news, hate, and propaganda." A firework started a small fire on netting covering some scaffolding on the church. The fire was put out in 12 minutes and caused no damage to the church, which is not Germany's oldest. The people gathering around the flag, which is used by various groups opposed to the Syrian government, were celebrating the cease-fire in that country, Deutsche Welle reports. "Allahu akbar" is common in Muslim celebrations and prayers. Police say two people threw a single firework each at the feet of police in separate incidents; one was a migrant, the other was German. German authorities are increasing warnings about fake news impacting the country's elections similarly to what happened in the US. (These were the 5 biggest fake news stories of 2016.)