Far-right terror is top threat to German democracy, says spy chief
The 7,000-member radical faction of AfD party placed under formal surveillance after recent extremist attacks
Berlin — Far-right terrorism and extremism is the biggest danger facing democracy in Germany today, says the chief of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, Thomas Haldenwang.
Speaking on Thursday after several extremist attacks in recent months, Haldenwang said the most radical right-wingers numbered 32,000 in his country, and 13,000 were considered potentially violent.
“Right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism are currently the biggest danger for democracy in Germany,” he told reporters.
His agency also placed under formal surveillance the far-right AfD party’s most radical faction Fluegel (The Wing), which now has about 7,000 members.
Founded in 2013, the AfD has grown and shifted further right over the past seven years.
Railing against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to keep Germany’s borders open to refugees, the AfD has scooped up a significant number of votes from voters unhappy about the government’s migration policy.
It is now the largest opposition group in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament.
The Fluegel, was founded by far-right firebrand Bjoern Hoecke, who has sparked outrage with statements on Germany’s Nazi past.
Hoecke has called Berlin's Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame” and urged a “180-degree shift” in the country’s culture of remembrance.
Haldenwang said security officials believed the Fluegel violated “characteristic features of the free democratic basic order, human dignity, democracy and the rule of law”.
Recent attacks in Germany meant it was more important than ever to monitor groups that may be inciting hatred, he added.
A gunman with apparent far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau in February, while two people were killed in an attack targeting a synagogue in Halle in October.
In June, pro-immigration politician Walter Luebcke was found dead at his home in the state of Hesse, with a far-right sympathiser confessing to the attack.