Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) is widening its investigation into far-right extremists within the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, German media reported on Tuesday, particularly focusing on the most elite unit in the military, the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK),which is based in the southwestern city of Calw.
The number of soldiers in the special forces unit believed to harbor fringe far-right sympathies is “extraordinarly high,” security sources told Spiegel magazine.
Deputy Defense Minister Gerd Hoofe told a parliamentary oversight panel that the rising number of extremists in the unit warranted “further investigation,” the magazine reported. He also said the probe into far-right extremism within the KSK had become a priority for the MAD.
The Bundeswehr has had several high-profile incidents in recent years relating to the discovery of far-right circles, but this is the first time the KSK has been under particular scrutiny.
Only 1,100 soldiers belong to the group, which is frequently asked by NATO and the United States to assist in joint anti-terror operations in the Balkans and the Middle East.
According to the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland news organization, the problem is particularly bad among paratroopers and known to center around the Franz-Joseph-Strauss base in Altenstadt, Bavaria. The base became infamous in the 1990s when MAD discovered that soldiers there were celebrating Hitler’s birthday and singing the anthem of the Nazi party.
MAD is probing soldiers who allegedly have links to Franco A., a Bundeswehr soldier who shocked Germany and Austria when he was apprehended in 2017 whilst trying to retrieve a pistol and ammunition he had hidden at the airport in Vienna. Explosives were also found.
Franco A. was charged with planning attacks on high-rank politicians and public figures that the man believed were “refugee-friendly.” He was later acquitted of terrorism charges, but convicted of weapons violations.
MAD is also looking into online extremist groups like “North Cross.” However, as the smallest of Germany’s intelligence-gathering services, there are some concerns that it may not have enough personnel and resources needed for the breadth of the investigation.
The German Defense Ministry has already indicated that it wants to strengthen the probe.
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