Politics

Germany: Over 500 right-wing extremists suspected in Bundeswehr

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Via Deutsche Welle

The German military intelligence service has said it is investigating 550 German Bundeswehr soldiers suspected of right-wing extremism, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.

Numerous cases of extremism in the German military and among other security forces have been brought to light in recent years, as the government struggles to contain right-wing extremist threats and violence.

An additional 360 cases of suspected right-wing extremism were registered in 2019, Christof Gramm, the head of the German military’s counterintelligence service (MAD), told Welt am Sonntag.

He added that 14 individuals were convicted last year of extremism, eight of them for right-wing extremism.

MAD said an additional 40 individuals failed to uphold the values of the German constitution.

“Our goal is to not only remove extremists from the German military but also people who lack loyalty to the constitution,” Gramm said.

He attributed the rise in numbers to increased scrutiny by MAD.

Christof Gramm, the head of MAD, Germany's military intelligence service (picture-alliance/AP Images/M. Sohn)

Under Gramm, MAD has made reforms over the past year following criticism of its intelligence duties

KSK: Hotbed of extremism?

Cases of suspected extremism were particularly concentrated among an elite unit known as Special Forces Command, or KSK.

According to Gramm, 20 of the suspected right-wing extremism cases currently being processed were within the KSK, which in relation to the number of personnel was five times higher than that of the overall level across the Bundeswehr.

The number of cases in the KSK also doubled in comparison to the start of 2019, he added.

MAD was highly criticized following the case of Franco A., a German army soldier who will stand trial for terror-related offenses. In 2017 he was arrested and accused of leading a double life posing as a Syrian refugee in order to carry out an attack that he hoped would be mistaken for Islamist terrorism.

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Read more: A German right-wing extremist soldier’s double life

Franco A.’s activities raised fears of a “shadow army” among German soldiers. In the aftermath, MAD was subject to an investigation by a parliamentary watchdog committee that oversees German intelligence services.

“That was the alarm to comprehensively develop MAD,” Gramm said.

MAD’s president disputed the existence of a shadow army, German news agency DPA reported, while saying that his organization seriously researched the possibility.

“That’s how we identified extremists and people with insufficient constitutional loyalty,” he said, adding that they did not find any group that “wants to overturn the state.”

Gramm said it was every soldier’s duty to report colleagues who express or display unconstitutional sentiments.

MAD will release a report of its activities this year — a first for the organization.

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