Germany to create far right extremists' register

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2011 1:40 PM
Germany to create far right extremists' register

Germany will create a national database as a clearing-house for information on far-right extremists amid mounting criticism because its security agencies failed to detect a deadly neo-Nazi terror group for years.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday the new database to be used by all federal and state-level intelligence and police agencies will be modeled on a similar registry for Islamic extremists created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We want to also use this idea, that has been very successful over the past 10 years to foil Islamist terror attacks, against domestic terrorist structures," Friedrich told reporters.

The minister also announced that the government scheduled talks for Friday with the country's 16 state interior and justice ministers on how to "improve cooperation in the future."

Germany has a federal domestic intelligence agency, but all states also have their own police and domestic intelligence agency _ resulting in a lack of coordination that critics say helped the neo-Nazis to remain undetected between 1998 and last week.

The group is suspected of murdering eight Turks, a Greek and a policewoman over the past decade.

The investigation into the activities of the National Socialist Underground has spiraled into a nationwide search of previously unsolved crimes, including suspected terror attacks in Cologne and Duesseldorf from 2000 to 2004 that are now linked to the group. The attacks injured more than 30 people, most of them foreigners.

Two people have been arrested, a suspected co-founder of the group and an alleged supporter. Two other suspected founding members died last week in an apparent suicide, but authorities believe the group relied on a much larger network of "helpers" across the nation.

The crimes have caused an outcry and caused soul-searching across the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel called them "a shame for Germany" over the weekend.

President Christian Wulff announced Wednesday that he will invite the victims' relatives and government representatives to meet at his Berlin office in a private ceremony.

German police referred to the series of the nine murders of foreign businessmen _ including a flower wholesaler, a tailor and kebab stall owners _ as "kebab killings," suspecting organized crime behind it but not politically motivated violence.

The head of state therefore raised the question of what lessons German authorities must learn from that failure.

"Did we have to suspect a far right extremist background and are the protagonists of those far right circles under sufficient surveillance?" Wulff said.

"Did we possibly let prejudices guide ourselves?" he added in a speech addressing the Central Council of Jews in Germany.