March 8, 2018 / 1:28 PM / in 10 months

Regional German AfD leader steps down after calling Turks "camel drivers"

Andre Poggenburg of Germany's anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AFD) speaks on his mobile phone in main hall of Maritim hotel before the AFD's party congress in Cologne, Germany, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

BERLIN (Reuters) - The head of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt is resigning after provoking outrage by calling Turks “camel drivers” who should return to their “mud huts and polygamy”.

Andre Poggenburg, 42, made the comments on Ash Wednesday, when German politicians traditionally deliver fiery speeches. He also called Turks living in Germany an “unpatriotic rabble”.

He said in a statement on Thursday he would step down on March 31 after “enormous media pressure” in the wake of his speech on Feb. 14.

He accused media of putting some words in his mouth that he had not used, but did not specifically deny the most controversial comments, which were widely reported.

“It’s no problem for me to deal with this pressure myself but I want to deflect it from members, colleagues in the parliamentary group and party colleagues,” Poggenburg said in his statement.

“The AfD’s success is always more important than the individual’s success or feelings so I think it’s right for me to take a step back at the moment.”

In June the AfD reprimanded Poggenburg for using the slogan “Germany for the Germans”, often used by the ultra-right National Democratic Party, on a messaging service.

The AfD has become the largest opposition party in the national parliament, after winning 12.6 percent of votes in September elections. In its campaign it capitalised on concerns about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward migrants.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Andrew Roche

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