Thursday, January 05, 2012

Der Spiegel: The Brown Army Faction -- A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror

The Brown Army Faction: A Disturbing New Dimension of Far-Right Terror
Der Spiegel

Frühlingsstrasse in the Weissenborn neighborhood of the eastern German city of Zwickau is a street lined with renovated old houses, manicured front gardens and sidewalks that look swept clean. It would be an idyllic residential neighborhood, if it weren't for the house at number 26.

The windows are smashed, a section of the front wall has collapsed onto the lawn, and there is a gaping black hole on the right side of the second floor. An incendiary bomb exploded at this house a little over a week ago. But the real nature of the bomb that exploded there was not clear until last Friday. As it turned out, the reverberations from the explosion rocked not just the nearby houses on Frühlingsstrasse, but the whole of Germany.

Beate Zschäpe, who was renting an apartment in the building, left the house shortly before flames burst from the windows at 3:05 p.m. on Nov. 4. She dropped off her cats with a neighbor, and then she did what she has been doing time and again for almost 14 years: She disappeared.

Three hours earlier, a fire had also been set in a parked camper in Eisenach, a city 180 kilometers (110 miles) away. The two men inside, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, had just robbed a bank. They had ended up in Eisenach after being on the run for 14 years. The two men shot themselves before a police patrol could reach the burning vehicle.

Shocking Discoveries

It didn't take investigators long to see the connection between the two incidents. Then they began digging through the wreckage in Frühlingsstrasse, looking for clues. The deeper they dug, the more astonished and shocked they were by what they uncovered.

At first, it seemed that they had just hit upon a gang of bank robbers that had blown up their hideout.

They dug deeper.

Were the two men and one woman a neo-Nazi trio that had built pipe bombs in the eastern state of Thuringia in the late 1990s and had gone into hiding in the Zwickau area?

The investigators dug even deeper.

Was the trio a group of cold-blooded murderers who had gunned down police officer Michèle Kiesewetter in the southwestern city of Heilbronn four years ago? The investigators found Kiesewetter's service weapon, a Heckler & Koch P 200, and that of her severely injured fellow police officer in the burned-out camper, while the presumed murder weapon was found in the rubble in Zwickau. But that wasn't the end of the story.

Were they members of a right-wing extremist terrorist organization that had randomly shot and killed nine men throughout Germany since 2000, eight of them of Turkish origin and one from Greece? That was the point at which the investigation had arrived by the end of last week, when police found a weapon in the pile of rubble that had become synonymous with what was probably Germany's longest, most brutal and most mysterious series of murders. The weapon was a Ceska, model 83, 7.65 caliber Browning.

The Pink Panther's Terror Tour

Although the authorities had not yet completed their analysis of the pistol when SPIEGEL went to press, they are almost completely convinced that it's the same Ceska that was used to commit the so-called "doner killings," named after two of the victims, who sold doner kebabs, between 2000 and 2006. Next to the weapon lying in the fire-blackened rubble in Zwickau, police found four DVDs that had already been placed into envelopes. A 15-minute film by a group calling itself the "National Socialist Underground" (NSU) had been burned onto the disks. In the film, which SPIEGEL has viewed, the authors call themselves a "national network of comrades whose principle is to value action above words. As long as fundamental changes do not occur in politics, press and in freedom of opinion, the activities will continue."

To Read the Rest of the Report

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