German neo-Nazi in Army allegedly planned terrorist attack, fraudulently registered as refugee
A scandal is growing in Germany about a soldier who allegedly has been involved in planning a terrorist attack. It has come to light that while the Army had clear indications several years ago that the man was a right-wing extremist, military intelligence was not informed of that fact.
In the French town of Illkirch near the German border, where the 28-year-old soldier, Franco A., was serving with an international unit, Army detectives discovered an engraved Nazi swastika and propaganda about the Nazi Wehrmacht which they have linked to him. The German lieutenant has been in custody since the end of April.
Franco A. is accused of planning a terrorist attack in such a way as to make it seem as if a refugee was the perpetrator. For that purpose, he registered in Germany at the end of 2015 as a refugee from Syria without the authorities ever discovering his fraud.
The soldier also acquired a weapon illegally. German newspaper Tagesspiegel reports that his list of proposed targets included, for example, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) and former German President Joachim Gauck, and that his case has now been taken up by Germany's Supreme State Prosecutor.
The scandal, the impacts of which are being felt by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), is compounded by the fact that by 2014 at the latest, the Army already knew that Franco A. harbored right-wing extremist convictions. A historian had previously been asked by the Army to assess the soldier's Masters thesis and had reported at the time that it was not an academic text but a racist, radically nationalist call to arms.
In his thesis, the soldier warned against "race-mixing", called immigration "genocide", and said the emancipation of women "endangers the family" and thereby weakens the "nation". Despite the historian's clear, very critical assessment, the Army officials responsible did practically nothing.
In January 2014 officials had two discussions with Franco A. during which he reportedly emphasized that he did not identify as a racist or a right-wing extremist. The case was not brought to the attention of military intelligence (MAD), which should have been automatically informed.
After the arrest of Franco A., moreover, it came to light that he had made no attempt to conceal his right-wing convictions from the other soldiers in Illkirch. The German Defense Minister said she believed Franco A.'s superiors should have intervened against him long ago, sharply criticizing Army representatives for weakness of leadership in the matter.
At the same time, she has admitted that she herself bears overall responsibility for what goes on in the Army, where several cases of bullying have also recently come to light. The minister cancelled a two-day visit to the United States and visited Illkirch instead on 3 May because of the scandal.
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