German official admits shortcomings as NSU murders remain unsolved

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Many questions remain about the murders of the neo-Nazi terrorist cell Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU), the German spy chief admitted Thursday.

Thomas Haldenwang said a wider neo-Nazi network could have supported the three members of the NSU terror cell, who killed eight Turkish immigrants, a Greek citizen and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

“How did the NSU trio choose their victims and locations? Was the money they made from the bank robberies enough for them during those years, or did they receive the financial support? other people? Many important questions remain unanswered, ”he told a panel. discussion.

Haldenwang said there were also questions about former intelligence officer Andreas Temme, who was at the crime scene when the NSU killed Halit Yozgat in Kassel in 2006.

The NSU’s motives for the murder of police officer Michele Kiesewetter in 2007 are also unclear, he noted.

The NSU committed nine murders of people of immigrant background and a policewoman in various parts of Germany between 2000 and 2007. Following the suicide of two of the founding members of the NSU in 2011, a third founding member, Beate Zschaepe, turned himself in to the police, who for years denied that the murders had a racist motive.

Zschaepe was convicted of being an accomplice in the murder of eight Turks, a Greek and a German policeman during a seven-year rampage between 2000 and 2007 which was largely ignored by authorities until that the other two members of the NSU commit suicide. She took care of the logistics and finances of the group, setting up shelters for the killers.

The ringleaders, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, who allegedly carried out the murders, died before being arrested in what could be a murder-suicide.

The trial, which took place in Munich from May 2013 to July 2018, gripped the nation and ended with a life sentence for Zschaepe and terms of varying severity for other NSU members on trial. Zschaepe and three of his co-defendants in the NSU trial appealed their convictions, and the case reached the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in January. However, the court rejected the request.

Until 2011, German police and intelligence services ruled out any neo-Nazi motive for the killings and instead treated immigrant families as suspects, questioning them about suspected links to mafia groups and drug traffickers. .

Haldenwang, who took over as head of national intelligence agency BfV in 2018, said security agencies had made serious mistakes in the past, failing to prevent killings or arrest neo-Nazi suspects.

But he said the authorities have learned lessons from past failures, made significant changes in the organization of security agencies and strengthened the units tasked with countering right-wing extremism.

The NSU is said to have been founded by Mundlos, Bohnhardt and Zschaepe. The trio lived underground from 1998 with false identities.

The scandal surrounding the NSU sparked a debate in Germany over institutional racism and the failures of German security and intelligence organizations, which have long been criticized for underestimating the threat from the far right.

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