Call for public help in German neo-Nazi serial murder case

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German authorities called Thursday for help from the public as they investigated a neo-Nazi cell believed to have murdered 10 people, mainly foreign shopkeepers, in a case that has shocked the country.

Describing the case as "extremely complicated and wide-ranging," the head of the federal prosecutors' office, Harald Range, said they had taken the decision to throw open the investigation to the public.

"We are hoping for evidence from the general public, clues that would otherwise maybe have remained hidden from us," Range told reporters.

The head of the federal criminal police office, Joerg Ziercke, said authorities were "intensively looking into whether other, until now undiscovered, crimes could be attributed" to the extremist group.

The group, which called itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU), also carried out "at least 14 armed robberies" to finance their activities, added Ziercke.

"This terror cell did not leave anything to chance," he said, showing a huge cache of weapons discovered at one of their bases.

He said he had 420 officers currently working on the investigation and was expecting to assign more to the case.

Two NSU members were found dead last month in an apparent suicide and the other, a 36-year-old woman identified as Beate Z., has turned herself in but refused to speak to police.

Officials declined to tell reporters whether she had since provided any evidence.

Since then, authorities arrested on November 24 a man identified as Andre E., who stands accused of making a chilling video in 2007 -- discovered only last month -- in which the militants claimed responsibility for the murders.

Another man, 37, has been detained on charges of aiding and abetting the group as police search for further accomplices.

A third suspected accomplice, Ralf Wohlleben, had "clear connections" to the far-right NPD political party, Ziercke said, although it had not yet been established whether the cell used party infrastructure to plan the murders.

"We are not investigating the NPD but the group that called itself the NSU, he said.

The case has revived calls by political leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel to examine a potential ban of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, after an attempt that was struck down by the constitutional court in 2003.

© 2011 AFP

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