News24

100+ far-right German suspects at large

2012-10-21 17:27

Berlin - The German government estimates that more than 100 rightwing extremists who have been charged with crimes are still at large, says Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.

Friedrich told the Welt am Sonntag that despite efforts to crack down on extremism in the wake of a botched probe of serial killings blamed on neo-Nazis, dozens of suspects had apparently slipped through the authorities' fingers.

"The Federal Crime Office estimates that as of mid-September, 110 rightwing extremists with outstanding arrest warrants have gone underground," he said.

It emerged last November that a far-right trio calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) was likely behind the killings of 10 people, mainly Turkish-born shopkeepers, throughout Germany between 2000 and 2007.

The case was exposed when two members of the NSU were found dead in an apparent suicide pact in the eastern city of Zwickau and the other, a woman, turned herself in.

Investigators initially focused their probe on criminal elements in the Turkish community, in a case marked by repeated missteps and allegations of a cover-up.

A parliamentary committee is investigating the affair and the government has pledged a root-and-branch reform of the security services.

Friedrich said he did not believe there were neo-Nazi killers currently on the loose but warned of the danger the extremists posed.

"Again and again you have seen there can be a revolving door in the rightwing extremist scene between violent and terrorist elements," Friedrich said.

"We must gird ourselves against this."

The chairperson of the parliamentary committee probing the NSU murders, Sebastian Edathy, said the number of suspects still underground showed the scope of the potential threat.

"The number is proof that the Zwickau terror cell cannot be seen as an isolated phenomenon," he told the newspaper.

"We still have more ticking time bombs walking around in this country."