Arrest in Germany’s ‘National Socialist Union’ neo-Nazi terror case

BERLIN — Elite counter-terrorism officers have arrested another suspect in the neo-Nazi terror cell case that has shaken Germany since it came to light late last year.

The 31-year-old man is accused of being an accomplice to the self-proclaimed National Socialist Underground (NSU) — the group responsible for nine murders of immigrant shopkeepers and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

The two main alleged perpetrators, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Boehnhardt, died in an apparent murder-suicide in November after a botched bank robbery. Beate Zschaepe, the woman who had gone on the run with them in 1998, surrendered to police after allegedly blowing up their shared apartment. Zschaepe, who is also charged with being a founding member of the NSU, has refused to cooperate with the investigation so far.

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There have already been a number of other arrests since the cell’s killing spree came to light. On Wednesday, commandos with the GSG 9 counter-terrorism unit apprehended the latest suspect, identified only as Carsten S., on suspicion of being an accomplice in six murders and one attempted murder.

He is thought to have provided the group with weapons and ammunition in 2002 and 2003. Investigators do not yet know if the guns he provided were used in the murders, but they contend that he must have realized that any weapon he supplied would be used for ideologically motivated attacks.

According to prosecutors, the man had close ties to the trio for years. Like them, he had been a member of the far-right group, the Thueringer Heimatschutz and he is thought to have financially supported them after they went on the run in 1998.

In recent weeks, his lawyer had insisted that his client had abandoned the far-right scene in 2000. However, the Federal Prosecutors Office believes he had contact with the NSU as recently as 2003.

The man is also reported to have once been head of the youth wing of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in the state of Thuringia.

He is not the first suspect in the case to have links to the party, which has seats in several state parliaments. Ralf Wohlleben, who was arrested in November on charges of sending the three suspected terrorists a gun and bullets via a courier, was at one point a senior official in the NPD.

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The discovery of the murderous neo-Nazi group has lead to renewed calls for a ban of the party. 

Previous attempts to outlaw the NPD ended in farce in 2003 after a court threw out the case following the discovery that a number of the NPD's inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants for the German intelligence agencies. 

There are some who question the point of having such informants if it prevents a ban of the far-right, particularly as they failed to help the intelligence agencies detect the NSU. 

The police, meanwhile, have been criticized for failing to probe a far-right motive for the nine murders of immigrant shop-owners. They had worked on the assumption that the killings were somehow related to Turkish criminal gangs. 

Police only realized their error when they found guns used in the killings and a DVD claiming responsibility for the crimes after Mundlos and Böhnhardt died.

The authorities have since set up a dedicated center for intelligence work on the neo-Nazi scene in Germany.

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