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Feb 19, 3:55 AM EST

A leading figure in the nationalist Alternative for Germany has urged the party's followers to reject violence


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BERLIN (AP) -- A leading figure in the nationalist Alternative for Germany has urged the party's followers to reject violence.

Joerg Meuthen wrote on his Facebook page that he was prompted to speak out after readers of an earlier column had written that "violence is necessary."

In a post late Sunday, Meuthen said his party - known by the acronym AfD - wants to change Germany through democratic means and "we firmly reject calls to violence of any kind."

German officials have expressed concern at the party's increasing radicalization and growing ties to far-right groups it had previously shied away from. Justice Minister Heiko Maas suggested some sections of AfD should be put under surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agency.

AfD came third in last year's elections after campaigning heavily against immigration.

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