German police arrest suspect in neo-Nazi probe

Man believed to have assisted in six murders; case highlights Germany's failure to eradicate right-wing extremism.

Neo Nazi 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Neo Nazi 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN - German police arrested a man on Tuesday they suspect of assisting in six murders and one attempted murder committed by a neo-Nazi cell uncovered this month, a case that has highlighted Germany's failure to eradicate right-wing extremism.
Prosecutors said the 36-year-old suspect was arrested in Jena, a city in the eastern state of Thuringia where the cell was based.
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Investigators believe the cell, which called itself the "Nationalist Socialist Underground," has killed eight Turks, a Greek and a 22-year-old police woman since 2000. The cell is also suspected of two bomb attacks and 14 bank robberies across the country, prosecutors say.
The case has dominated German headlines for weeks. Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to intensify the fight against the far-right.
A statement by the Federal Prosecutor's Office said the suspect was believed to have assisted in six murders and one attempted murder. Investigators said the suspect had been active in rightist extremist circles since 1995 and had known and financially supported three gang members.

Tuesday's arrest brought the killings closer to the door of Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), since the suspect was also a senior party official in Thuringia. The NPD has condemned the murders committed by the cell but media have drawn attention to at least unofficial links between some party members and the individuals in the cell.
Some politicians have renewed calls for a ban of the NPD, which is represented in two state assemblies and gets about 1 million euros in taxpayer money each year. A previous attempt to ban it failed as witnesses were exposed as informants.