German probe of armed neo-Nazis raises fear of 'Brown Army'
The discovery of a pistol used in the murder of nine people of foreign origin in the home of a suspected neo-Nazi raised fears Saturday of a "Brown Army Faction" of violent extremists in Germany.
Police found a Ceska pistol in the ruins of a house in the eastern town of Zwickau where the suspect, a 36-year-old woman, lived in a rented flat she blew up before turning herself in to the police.
Ballistics experts said the weapon was used in the unsolved murders of nine men -- eight of Turkish origin and one of Greek descent -- in kebab restaurants throughout Germany between 2000 and 2006.
The case is now being investigated by federal prosecutors, which probe suspected terrorism, amid reports of a far-right terror network possibly masterminding the killings.
Police had been looking for the suspect, identified only as Beate Z., for questioning in their investigation of an armed robbery in the eastern Jena region on November 4.
Two suspects in that robbery, who were close to Beate Z. in the neo-Nazi scene, were found dead in a caravan shortly afterwards. Investigators believe the two committed suicide.
Inside the caravan police found the firearm of a policewoman who was killed by a shot to her head in 2007 -- a murder that has never been solved.
The suspected neo-Nazi case made headlines across the German press on Saturday.
"For the first time since reunification (in 1990) Germany faces large-scale far-right extremism," said Berlin's Tagesspiegel.
"This affair shows that there are still right-wing extremists ready to commit violence in Germany," the head of the opposition Social Democrats parliamentary group told the Die Welt.
According to that newspaper, police was investigating possible links to other unsolved cases with an extremist background, such as a bomb attack at Duesseldorf train station in 2000 in which several Jews from the former Soviet Union were injured, or a bomb blast in a Turkish neighbourhood in nearby Cologne in 2004.
"Observers are already talking about a possible 'Brown Army Faction' that could be secretly at work," said the left-leaning Tageszeitung, after the now defunct left-wing "Red Army Faction" that killed more than 30 people between the 1970s and 1990s.
"If these reports are confirmed it would mean that for the first time a small underground far-right group leaves such a trail of blood in Germany," the head of Germany's main GdP police union, Bernhard Witthaut, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Some media questioned how Beate Z. and the two other suspects could have escaped for 13 years when in 1998 a homemade bomb factory was found in a garage rented by the woman. Some have speculated that the intelligence services may have used them as informants on the neo-Nazi movement.
Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, warned against politicising the affair.
"Now we need to push ahead with the investigations," she said in an interview to appear in Sunday's Die Welt.
She added the investigations centred on "finding out if the suspects were part of an extreme-right network, making threats."
According to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung citing anonymous security sources, there were no signs at the moment of "the existence of a structured terrorist group."
© 2011 AFP