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After 9 murders, Germany's Turks want crackdown on neo-Nazis

German authorities have been embarrassed by the discovery that a previously unknown neo-Nazi group was behind the murders of eight Turkish immigrants and one Greek man between 2000 and 2006.

BERLIN // The leader of Germany's Turkish community yesterday called on the country to vigorously tackle racism following revelations that nine immigrants were killed by right-wing terrorists.

Kenan Kolat claimed the country's three million Turks were afraid of more neo-Nazi attacks.

"Many people are afraid that this could happen again," Mr Kolat, the chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said in a television interview. "We want more to be done to combat racism.

"These killings were belittled as being isolated cases. We need to start fighting this properly."

German authorities have been deeply embarrassed by the discovery last week that a previously unknown neo-Nazi group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" was behind the murders of eight Turkish immigrants and one Greek man in various cities between 2000 and 2006.

The case has left the impression that the police were blind to the threat of far-right violence and did not investigate the murders properly because they involved immigrants.

The victims all worked in small shops, stalls and kiosks and two of them worked in doner kebab restaurants, which is why the German media described the murders as the "Doner Killings".

The term has been criticised as having racist overtones.

Two of the three terrorists, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, were found dead on November 4 in a camper van in the city of Eisenach.

They apparently committed suicide as police closed in on them following a bank robbery.

The third member, a woman named Beate Zschäpe, turned herself in to the police.

The murder weapon used in all the killings, a Ceska 7.65 millimetre Browning, was found in an apartment the three had used, along with DVDs in which they claimed responsibility for the nine murders, two bomb attacks in which more than 20 immigrants were injured and the killing of a German policewoman in 2007.

Relatives of the dead said police had rashly dismissed the possibility of a far-right motive and had instead suspected that the victims were caught up with Turkish criminal gangs.

The name of the task force set up by the German police to investigate the crimes, "Bosphorus", reveals their mindset, immigrants groups claim.

Gamze K, 22, the daughter of Mehmet K, who was shot dead in his kiosk in Dortmund on April 4, 2006, said police investigating his death speculated that he had gambling debts or was killed by a protection racket. Because of German privacy laws, their last names were not being disclosed.

"We were suddenly under suspicion," she told Bild, a tabloid newspaper, in an interview published on Tuesday. "The police kept looking for crooked business dealings supposedly done by my father. The police didn't take seriously our suspicion that it could have been neo-Nazis."

Kerim S, 24, the son of Enver S, a flower seller who was murdered in 2000, also told Bild that "they said my father had something to do with the mafia and smuggled drugs". He added: "No one spoke of a far-right motive - but only foreigners were killed."

Police searching the apartment of the trio also found a list of 88 names of politicians and representatives of Turkish and Muslim organisations that they said could have been identified as targets.

The number 88 could be significant because it is neo-Nazi code for "Heil Hitler", H being the eighth letter in the alphabet.

The government, alarmed about the harm to Germany's international reputation, has called a conference of security chiefs for // TODAY? NOV. 18 ? // Friday to discuss a reform of the regionally fragmented police and intelligence authorities in response to their failure.

It also planned to begin compiling a national register of neo-Nazis, similar to a database it already has on radical Islamists, and has pledged to start pursuing the far right with the same vigour it has devoted to the fight against Islamist terror.

Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister, said: "This isn't just terrible for the victims. It isn't just bad for our country. It is also very bad for the reputation of our country in the world."

The German president, Christian Wulff, plans to meet the relatives of the victims. There has been talk of a national memorial ceremony in their honour.

"I am ashamed our state wasn't able to protect the murdered victims and the many injured people from these terrorists," said Thomas Oppermann, a lawmaker for the opposition Social Democrats. "The murder cases are definitely among the worst and most disgusting crimes we have seen in Germany in the last 60 years."

 

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

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