Berlin admits killing failure
German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly apologized to the families of the neo-Nazi victims. The killings horrified Germans and badly damaged the reputations of the national intelligence service. AFP photo
Although still reeling from their botched handling of a neo-Nazi killing spree, German law enforcement agencies need to work together in more efficient ways going forward in order to tackle the country’s security threats, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said July 18.
Radical Islamists and neo-Nazis posed the biggest threat to German democracy and rule of law, Friedrich and the outgoing head of the domestic intelligence agency, Heinz Fromm, said when unveiling the ministry’s annual report of security risks.
Friedrich also acknowledged that poor coordination between federal and regional bodies had contributed to their failure to identify and stop a neo-Nazi cell that killed 10 people between 2000 and 2007.
The German ministry’s report came at the same time as a report released by the Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, which found that the neo-Nazi group found responsible for the murders was indirectly supported by German police, armed forces and the country’s intelligence agency.
The murders of eight Turks, one Greek and a policewoman horrified Germans and badly damaged the reputations of the national intelligence service and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. “We must now implement reforms and restore trust in the domestic intelligence service,” Reuters qutoed Friedrich as saying at a news conference, adding that the shakeup would include an improved early warning system to prevent a repetition of past mistakes.
Details of the shakeup would be announced in the fall, Friedrich said, but named Hans-Georg Maassen, an anti-terrorism expert, as the new head of the domestic intelligence agency. After evidence was revealed that someone in the domestic intelligence agency had shredded files on the neo-Nazi cell last fall shortly after the agency’s involvement in the murders came to light Fromm announced he would step down.
Further racial attacks
The Turkish Parliamentary Commission’s report strongly criticized the German state for not properly investigating the murders, and said the “murderers received professional help.”
“The lack of coordination between the German military, security forces and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution caused the murders to continue. In some cases the intelligence agency did not cooperate with the police, and in some cases military officials ignored intelligence,” the report read.
The interior ministry’s report said Germany could face further racially motivated attacks by neo-Nazis. It recorded a small increase in the number of such attacks last year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly apologized to the families of the 10 murder victims for the catalogue of neglect and errors that allowed the cell to operate with impunity for so long.
At the news conference, Fromm reiterated his concern that radical Islamists were recruiting German Muslims over the Internet, encouraging them to commit violent attacks in Germany. “We are seeing a variety of networks that are in close contact with jihadist organizations from around the world,” Fromm said.
Last month, Friedrich banned one radical Islamist group known as the Millatu Ibrahim, and said he might act against others that were believed to be plotting against Germany’s democratic institutions.
German authorities are particularly worried by the growth of the ultra-conservative Salafi sect, which has clashed with police in several cities and towns. During one such clash in May of this year, 29 police officers were hurt when Salafis turned on police protecting a far-right anti-Islam protest.