Merkel admits 'failures' in neo-Nazi investigation

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2011 11:12 AM
Merkel admits 'failures' in neo-Nazi investigation

Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged Wednesday that German security services made "numerous failures" in allowing a small band of neo-Nazis to slip through their fingers and allegedly commit a string of killings over more than a decade, and promised the victims' families a full investigation.

The group is suspected of killing eight people of Turkish origin, a Greek man and a policewoman, and is being investigated further in connection with several other possible hate crimes and a string of bank robberies.

"These crimes were no more and no less than an attack on our democracy," Merkel said in a speech to the lower house of Parliament. "Our responsibility to the victims is to undertake everything possible to clear up these horrible crimes."

Of the group's suspected founders, Beate Zschaepe, 36, is in custody, while Uwe Boehnhardt, 34, and Uwe Mundlos, 38, died in an apparent murder-suicide as police closed in on them earlier this month.

Police have also charged a 37-year-old identified only as Holger G. with supporting the organization, and authorities have said they are investigating nine others on suspicion they helped the group.

Critics have charged that Germany's domestic intelligence agency and police forces have been too focused on Islamic and leftist extremism, allowing the neo-Nazis to operate unchecked.

"The security agencies have to answer some fundamental questions in the face of numerous failures and mistakes," Merkel told Parliament.

Germany's Muslim Coordination Council, an umbrella group that represents many Muslim organizations, on Wednesday sent an open letter to German state and federal authorities calling for the security officials found to have made mistakes to be held responsible.

"In the shadow of an imagined danger of Islamic extremism, right-wing extremism has been able to flourish unhindered," the group said in the letter.


Associated Press Writer Juergen Baetz contributed to this story.