German man arrested in neo-Nazi investigation

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 8:58 AM
German man arrested in neo-Nazi investigation

German police arrested a right-wing extremist Tuesday on suspicion he helped arm a small group of neo-Nazis accused of a string of killings of minorities and a policewoman, the federal prosecutors' office said.

Ralf Wohlleben, 36, was arrested in a raid in Jena, a city in the eastern state of Thuringia, on six counts of accessory to murder and one of attempted murder for his alleged involvement with the far-right terrorist organization known as the National Socialist Underground, prosecutors said.

Wohlleben is well-known in the extreme right scene in Thuringia, as a former member of the far-right National Democratic Party, known by its German initials NPD, and as a founding member of the radical Thuringia Home Guard.

Police have been rounding up suspects believed to be connected with the group since founders Uwe Boehnhardt, 34, and Uwe Mundlos, 38, died in an apparent murder-suicide as authorities closed in on them following a bank heist earlier this month. The third suspected member of the core group, 36-year-old Beate Zschaepe, turned herself in shortly afterward.

In addition, 37-year-old Holger G. and Andre E., 32, whose last names have not been released, have both been arrested on charges of supporting the terrorist organization. Investigators have said they are looking at about 10 people in total believed to have supported the terrorist group's three main members.

The neo-Nazi group is suspected of killing eight people of Turkish origin and a Greek man between 2000 and 2006 and a policewoman in 2007. It also is being investigated in connection with several other possible hate crimes and a string of bank robberies over the past decade.

Prosecutors said the group is believed linked to two bombings in Cologne targeting foreigners in 2001 and 2004, which wounded more than 20 people.

Wohlleben is known to have been part of the far-right scene in Thuringia since at least 1995, and was in "close contact" with the three main members of the National Socialist Underground since the 1990s as well, federal prosecutors' spokesman Marcus Koehler said in a written statement.

When Mundlos, Boehnhardt and Zschaepe went underground in 1998, Wohlleben helped them with financial support and also introduced them to Holger G., who aided them with further finances and identity documents, Koehler said.

Wohlleben is accused of being aware of their terrorist activities, and in either 2001 or 2002 provided the core group with a gun and ammunition that he knew could be used for right-extremist killings, Koehler said.

Authorities have said the same Czech-made 7.65mm Ceska pistol was used in all of the killings of nine minorities, but prosecutors did not say whether that was the weapon Wohlleben is alleged to have provided, and Koehler did not immediately return calls seeking clarification.