BERLIN - A wave of neo-Nazi killings of immigrant shopkeepers threatens to tarnish Germany's image around the world and is an assault against its democratic foundations, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
In a forceful speech to parliament, Merkel said police had made many mistakes in failing to stop or even detect the band of neo-Nazis who shot nine immigrants and a German police woman at close range during a mysterious murder spree from 2000 to 2007.
"We're horrified by the extent of this hatred and racism," Merkel told the Bundestag one day after deputies from all six parties condemned the killings by right-wing extremists in a rare cross-party display of unity.
"It's a shock for our country and a danger to our standing in the world," Merkel said before reading the names of the immigrant shopkeepers - eight Turks and one Greek - as well as the young German police officer.
"These crimes are nothing less than an attack on our democracy," said Merkel, in her strongest comments on the crimes to date. "We're determined to defend our open and tolerant way of life against horrid criminals and their despicable ideology."