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Neo-Nazi killings spark intelligence revamp plan

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Neo-Nazi killings spark intelligence revamp plan
Photo: DPA
16:48 CET+01:00
The chairman of Germany's parliamentary committee on interior affairs defended the authorities' approach towards far-right extremism on Monday, but said state domestic intelligence agencies needed reform in the wake of a neo-Nazi murder spree.

Speaking to state broadcaster ARD on Monday, Wolfgang Bosbach said there was no reason to believe that serious mistakes had been made at a federal level, or that a systemic failure allowed neo-Nazi terrorists to murder people and rob banks undetected for over a decade.

But Bosbach said that the offices of the smaller German states should pool their resources in future. Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Verfassungsschutz, is currently divided into 16 state offices plus an overarching federal authority.

“The smaller the organizations, the more chance that important information is missed,” Bosbach told the Rheinische Post newspaper. “That doesn't apply to large states like North Rhine-Westphalia, but why shouldn't - for example - Berlin and Brandenburg, or Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony perform operations together?”

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also spoke out in favour of reducing the number of state offices.

Bosbach added that he was “very, very sceptical” about the viability of a ban on the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), but acknowledged that political momentum was moving inexorably towards another attempt to have the far-right party banned on constitutional grounds.

There was more public reaction during the weekend to the revelations of a series of murders of people of immigrant background. Hundreds of Turks and Germans gathered outside the German parliament on Sunday to commemorate the eight Turks and one Greek murdered by the neo-Nazi terrorist cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground between 2000 and 2006.

Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the central council of German Muslims, described a planned national memorial service for the victims as a “signal that goes in the right direction.”

“It addresses the victims and their relatives, who have been left alone with their fears for much too long,” Mazyek told newspapers published by the WAZ media group on Monday.

Mazyek said he hoped politicians would use the ceremony to make clear that Muslims are a part of German society, and suggested that the ceremony include a recitation from the Koran. He also said he hoped that some relatives or friends of the victims would find the strength and courage to speak at the service.

The lobby organization “Businesses without Borders,” which provides support for entrepreneurs from various national backgrounds, also said Monday that it was no accident that all the murder victims were small business owners.

“Neo-Nazis don't just target those they see as socially weak, but also ambitious, economically successful immigrants who are part of public life,” organization head Kazim Abaci told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. He added that social envy was a big factor in far-right violence.

The series of murders, plus the killing of policewoman Michele Kiesewetter in 2007, emerged after the deaths of two members of the terrorist cell - Uwe Mundlos und Uwe Böhnhardt – two weeks ago.

There are still many unanswered questions about the circumstances of these deaths. According to the official police account, the two men robbed a bank in the town of Eisenach in the state of Thuringia at around 11:30 am on Friday, November 4.

During subsequent pursuit of the robbers, the police say that officers heard two shots coming from within a caravan. The caravan then caught fire after the officers then radioed for support and took cover. After the fire was extinguished, police then found the men's bodies with bullet wounds.

According to a report in Stern magazine, neighbours did not hear any shots.

On the same day, a flat shared by the two men and a third member of the gang, Beate Zschäpe, exploded. Zschäpe disappeared for three days, but gave herself up to police on Tuesday, November 8.

DAPD/The Local/bk

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