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Germany adding agents, police to fight far-right extremism

Noting October targeting of synagogue in Halle, among other incidents, interior minister says hundreds more officers will investigate and prevent nationalist crimes

Illustrative: Far-right groups protest in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 7, 2018, after several nationalist groups called for marches protesting the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants from Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Illustrative: Far-right groups protest in Chemnitz, eastern Germany, September 7, 2018, after several nationalist groups called for marches protesting the killing of a German man allegedly by migrants from Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

BERLIN — Germany is adding hundreds of new federal police officers and domestic intelligence agents as it steps up its fight against far-right extremism in the wake of several high-profile incidents in the past year, officials said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the Federal Criminal Police Office and the BfV intelligence agency would each add 300 positions dedicated to investigating and preventing far-right crimes, without weakening efforts focused on far-left crimes and Islamic extremism.

“This is a very big challenge for the internal security of Germany,” he told reporters.

Seehofer said the overall security situation in Germany is good, but said there have also been “terrible isolated incidents” that have shaken people’s confidence.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, August 29, 2018. (Michael Sohn/AP)

He noted the October attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle in which the suspect posted an anti-Semitic screed before attacking the building, then killed two people outside when he could not get in; and the June slaying of a regional politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party who supported her welcoming stance toward refugees.

There are some 12,000 people in Germany with far-right views who are considered to be potentially violent.

Federal Criminal Police Office head Holger Muench noted, however, that about half of far-right crimes are committed by suspects not already known to police, including the Halle synagogue attack.

Part of the job of the new units will be to dig deeper into associations, clubs and online networks to better identify potential perpetrators and stop crimes before they happen.

They will also look inward, to ensure that people with far-right views are not in public services like police agencies, the military or other jobs, said BfV head Thomas Haldenwang.

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