Germany’s far-right AfD to dissolve under-fire radical faction

Germany's far-right AfD party has decided to wind down its radical "Flügel" (The Wing) faction, a spokesman told AFP on Friday, after intelligence services placed the group under surveillance.

Germany's far-right AfD to dissolve under-fire radical faction
Notorious AfD lawmaker Björn Höcke. Photo: DPA

Flügel, which has about 7,000 members, was co-founded by notorious AfD lawmaker Björn Höcke, who has sparked outrage with attacks on Germany's culture of remembrance for Nazi crimes.

The party's executive committee decided in Berlin on Friday that the faction should be dissolved by April 30th, the spokesman confirmed.

Several AfD lawmakers at state level had been urging the party to take measures against the controversial group, but its weight within the party had largely secured it against attack until now.

Germany's domestic VS intelligence agency last week placed Flügel under formal surveillance, saying it violated “characteristic features of the free democratic basic order, human dignity, democracy and the rule of law”.

READ ALSO: Germany surveils far-right Flügel faction as fight against far-right stepped up

The classification would allow the authorities to tap members' phones, store personal data, recruit informants among its ranks and infiltrate undercover agents.

Announcing the measures, intelligence chief Thomas Haldenwang said
far-right extremism and terrorism were currently “the biggest danger for
democracy in Germany”, counting around 32,000 adherents nationwide including
Flügel members.

Founded in 2013 as a protest party against the euro single currency, the
AfD has grown and shifted further right over the last seven years.

Railing against Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision in 2015 to keep Germany's borders open to refugees, the AfD has scooped up a significant number of votes from those unhappy with the government's migration policy.

It is now the largest opposition group in the Bundestag, Germany's lower
house of parliament.

Germany has been hit by several right-wing extremist attacks in recent months.

A gunman with apparent far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau in February, while two people were killed in an attack targeting a synagogue in Halle in October.

In June, pro-immigration politician Walter Lübcke was found dead at his home in the state of Hesse, with a far-right sympathiser the prime suspect.

Mainstream politicians have pointed the finger at AfD and its rhetoric as
fuelling the violence.

READ ALSO: What is Germany doing to combat the far-right after Hanau attacks?

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New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs

Germany's Defence Minister on Tuesday vowed to severely punish soldiers stationed in Lithuania who were accused of singing racist and anti-Semitic songs, if the allegations turned out to be true.

New army scandal: Germany vows to punish soldiers caught singing anti-Semitic songs
German soldiers training in Saxony-Anhalt in May. credit: dpa-Zentralbild | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

“Whatever happened is in no way acceptable,” said Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Those implicated would be “vigorously prosecuted and punished”, she added.

The Spiegel Online news site had on Monday reported that German soldiers in Lithuania sang racist and anti-Semitic songs during a party at a hotel in April.

One had also sought to sexually assault another soldier while he was asleep, a scene which was caught on film, said Spiegel.

According to Spiegel Online, the scenes took place at a party at which soldiers consumed large quantities of alcohol. They are also alleged to have arranged a “birthday table” for Adolf Hitler on April 20th and to have sung songs for him.

It is unclear to what extent more senior ranked soldiers were aware of the incidents.

Three soldiers have been removed from the contingent stationed in the Baltic country and an investigation is ongoing to identify other suspects, said the report.

The German armed forces have been repeatedly rocked by allegations of right-wing extremism within their ranks.

Kramp-Karrenbauer last year ordered the partial dissolution of the KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.

SEE ALSO: Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination