German intelligence agencies have told a parliamentary committee that a neo-Nazi terror cell allegedly responsible for 10 murders had broader support than originally thought.
Germany is waking up to the neo-Nazi threat
Up until now the German authorities had assumed that four suspects had been responsible for a series of 10 racially-motivated murders between 2000 and 2007.
But now, inquiries are underway into the activities of nine additional suspects, according to German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, speaking after a special closed session of the Internal Affairs Committee of the German parliament on Monday.
Testimony was heard at the meeting from the interior minister, the head of the German domestic intelligence service, Heinz Fromm, and the director of the Federal Crime Office, Jörg Zierke, among others.
The Internal Affairs Committee consists of members of all five political parties with seats in the German Bundestag, or parliament.
What went wrong? German authorities discuss neo-Nazi mishap
Chairman of the committee, Wolfgang Bosbach, said after the marathon session that he had never before encountered “such an abundance of mistakes.”
A proposal made last Friday by Minister Friedrich to set up a national database to monitor the activities of far-right extremists was well received by the committee.
Structural deficits in Germany's security architecture
Structural shortcomings in the German intelligence apparatus were apparently one of the reasons that the three main neo-Nazi murder suspects were able to go into hiding in 1998, although they had been under observation by the state domestic intelligence service of Thuringia. This slip-up led to speculation that informants paid by the state may have been involved in the murders and possibly other crimes.
More light could be shed on the matter by Beate Zschäpe, one of the suspects currently in custody, but she has so far refused to make any statements. Her two accomplices, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, committed suicide. Their bodies were discovered in a burned out mobile home last week.
Investigators, as well as German political leaders, are still faced with a “substantial number of unanswered questions,” according to the Green party internal affairs expert, Wolfgang Wieland. If no progress is made, Wieland says a parliamentary inquiry could be launched and a special investigator appointed by the Bundestag.
The three alleged perpetrators...
Not the first breakdown of the intelligence services
This is not the first time that parliament has had to deal with the mishaps of the country's intelligence community. Between 2006 and 2009, the secret services investigation committee examined the role played by the authorities and leading politicians in the fight against Islamist terror. Despite years of work, many questions remain unanswered.
The domestic affairs spokesman for the Left Party, Ulla Jelpke, says a fundamental re-think is unavoidable. For years, she claims, far-right terrorism has been “played down and trivialized.” The issue was repeatedly a topic of discussion in parliament and she said there were indications that many attacks may have had an organized far-right terrorist background - referring to attacks, some which resulted in deaths, in Rostock, Hoyerswerda and Mölln.
Evidence still to be vetted
The Federal Prosecutors Office in Karlsruhe is still very much involved in evaluating evidence and answering the many unanswered questions. A spokesman said on Monday that, to date, there were no indications that the German domestic intelligence service had been working with the suspects, known as the “Zwickau Cell” after their last known domicile.
..and eight of the victims...
In the ruins of their burned out apartment in the city of Zwickau, in the state of Saxony, police found a video with an alleged confession. A second DVD, badly damaged by the fire, has yet to be evaluated.
Memorial service for the victims
The German government was quick to call for a central memorial service for the 10 victims of the far-right terror cell. Parliamentary leader, Norbert Lammert, confirmed over the weekend that a ceremony was being planned jointly by the Office of the President, the parliament and the German government.
Earlier, President Christian Wulff announced that he would meet with the family members of the victims, and that members of parliament and the government would also be present.
The chairman of the Central Council of Moslems in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, welcomed the planned memorial service as the “right signal.” He said the ceremony could contain a few religious elements, such as the recitation of Koran verses.
Author: Marcel Fürstenau, Berlin / gb
Editor: Michael Lawton