Germany: 12,000 far-right extremists with ‘a very high affinity for firearms’
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Anti-Semitic terrorism could happen 'at any moment'

Germany: 12,000 far-right extremists with ‘a very high affinity for firearms’

Interior minister warns of ‘elevated’ risk of violent attacks after near-massacre on Yom Kippur at Halle synagogue in which 2 killed; plans to ban six small far-right groups

Stephan Balliet, the suspect in the Halle shooting, gets out of a helicopter at the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, October 10, 2019. (Uli Deck/dpa/AFP)
Stephan Balliet, the suspect in the Halle shooting, gets out of a helicopter at the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, October 10, 2019. (Uli Deck/dpa/AFP)

BERLIN — There is an “elevated” risk of more far-right attacks in Germany after two people were killed by a gunman targeting a synagogue in the city of Halle this week, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned Friday.

“The threat posed by right-wing anti-Semitism and terrorism is elevated in Germany,” Seehofer said on ZDF public television.

This means such an attack could happen “at any moment,” he added.

Seehofer said there are an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in Germany. He added that half of them are considered potentially violent with “a very high affinity for firearms.”

Illustrative: A neo-Nazi demonstration in Leipzig, Germany. (CC BY-SA Herder3, Wikimedia Commons)

Seehofer’s warning came two days after Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old loner, was arrested for killing two people after trying to gain entry to a synagogue in the eastern town of Halle where dozens of worshipers were marking Yom Kippur.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer . (Michael Sohn/AP)

Though he failed to batter his way into the building, the assailant, armed with four apparently home-made rifles and grenades, killed a female passer-by and then shot dead a man who tried to take refuge in a kebab restaurant.

Police eventually captured Balliet — who had four kilos (nine pounds) of explosives in his car — after a gun battle that left him wounded.

Stephan Balliet (Screengrab)

Earlier Friday, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe said Balliet had confessed to the assault and confirmed  “far-right and anti-Semitic motives.”

Given the range of weapons he had on his person, the death toll could have been far higher had Balliet managed to force his way inside the synagogue.

He filmed and live-streamed the 35-minute assault as he raved at Jews and denied the Holocaust. He also published an online manifesto expressing anti-Semitic sentiments.

“This manifesto appeared on the internet the day after his act,” said Seehofer, who added that synagogues and other Jewish venues would in the future be better protected.

The minister announced the creation of new security service posts to that end and added that the government would swiftly enact a ban on six small far-right groups.

“We are extremely alert on this matter,” he insisted.

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