REPORTING FROM BERLIN -- Germany’s intelligence service came under sharp criticism Monday after revelations that a neo-Nazi terrorist group had been operating in the country virtually undetected for more than a decade and allegedly killed at least 10 people, most of them Turkish immigrants.
Authorities say that a group calling itself the National Socialist Underground was responsible for the slayings of eight people of Turkish origin, a Greek and a policewoman, some of whom were shot in the face at point-blank range. The group’s members are also suspected in more than a dozen bank robberies and a bombing.
The shocking details came to light after two members were found dead in an apparent suicide and a third turned herself in to the police last week. Authorities arrested a fourth suspect Sunday.
“Right-wing terror is a disgrace for Germany,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday at an assembly of her Christian Democratic Party in Leipzig. “We have to do everything we can to get to the bottom of this.”
“It is very disturbing that no connection was made between the serial murders throughout Germany and the right-wing extremist scene in Thuringia,” the eastern German state where the terrorist group was based, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the daily paper Bild.
“This is a kind of wake-up call,” said Robert Philippsberg, a political scientist at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, whose work focuses on right-wing extremism. “The intelligence service and the Interior Ministry need to ask themselves some questions.”
The slayings, dubbed the “doner killings” because some of the victims operated stands selling sandwiches known as doner kebabs, took place throughout the country between 2000 and 2006.
The killings baffled authorities until one of the suspects, Beate Zschaepe, turned herself in to police last week; her motives for doing so are unclear. The two other known members, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, were found dead in a mobile home in the town of Eisenach on Nov. 4.
The member of the group arrested Sunday, identified by authorities only as Holger Z., appeared before a judge Monday and was detained as a suspected accomplice in the killings.
A spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office said there were no other suspects at this time.
-- Aaron Wiener
Photo: A suspected member of a neo-Nazi cell, in handcuffs, is escorted by police to Germany's federal state prosecutor at the Bundesgerichtshof in Karlsruhe on Monday. Credit: Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters