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Bundeswehr rejects dozens for extremist links

July 21, 2019

The German army has turned down 63 applicants over the past two years after they failed security checks. Islamists, far-right, far-left supporters and ex-offenders were all excluded.

Soldier with weapon
Image: picture-alliance/U. Baumgarten

Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, has rejected 63 candidates over the past two years due to their apparent links to extremism, the Funke Media Group reported on Sunday.

Funke's newspapers cited a response from the Defense Ministry to a parliamentary inquiry from left-wing parties.

It revealed that the applicants included 21 neo-Nazis and so-called Reichsbürger (Reich citizens), 12 Islamists, two left-wing extremists and several people convicted in the past of violent offenses.

Reichsbürger members reject the authority of the German state and refuse to pay taxes, fines and social security contributions.

Read more: German court backs Bundeswehr decision to dismiss far-right janitor

Additional scrutiny was put on two other applicants over their membership of the Identitarian Movement — also classified as a right-wing extremist group.

What is the Identitarian Movement about?

The report revealed that 43,775 new recruits were checked by the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) between July 2017 and June 2019. The applications of 1,173 men and women were subsequently looked at more closely.

Far-right terror plot foiled

The increased security measures followed what authorities believe was a neo-Nazi terrorist plot within the Bundeswehr to assassinate senior government figures and lay the blame for the murders on asylum-seekers.

Read more: German military lacks equipment and recruits, says damning report

Military authorities said they wanted to prevent extremists from receiving weapons-training in the army that could later be used to carry out individual acts of violence at home or abroad.

The Left party parliamentarian Ulla Jelpke welcomed the additional scrutiny but questioned why long-serving soldiers were not subject to the same checks.

Defying death threats

Read more: End of a 'secret' German military mission in Cameroon

The German military has been rocked by several other scandals involving enlistees' links to right-wing extremist groups that almost forced the resignation of then-Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

In April 2017, the army admitted it was investigating 275 suspected cases of right-wing extremism within its ranks.

A month later, an inspection of all military barracks was ordered after Nazi-era memorabilia were discovered in two garrisons.

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