German police raid homes of 44 suspected neo-Nazis

USA Today/January 13, 2012

Berlin -- German police raided 44 homes Thursday linked to suspected neo-Nazis believed to have taken part in an illegal torchlight parade in eastern Germany.

Saxony police spokesman Lorenz Haase said 190 police officers were involved in the raids in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Brandenburg looking for evidence against 41 neo-Nazis. They are believed to have participated in a September march in the town of Stolpen, east of Dresden, wearing black clothing with black hoods, white masks and carrying torches.

Police say such marches are used to spread their far-right ideology. Police aren't saying what led them to the particular suspects, who are being investigated for breaking public assembly laws, nor whether any evidence was found in the raids. There were no arrests.

Germany has mobilized to go after the far-right National Democratic Party following the revelation that neo-Nazis are believed by police to have been responsible for the murder of at least nine immigrants and one policewoman since 2000. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said he is investigating ways to ban the NPD.

Police had ruled out racism as a motive for the shooting of eight Turkish shop owners and one Greek man in cities across Germany between 2000 and 2006. But police now say the killings were carried out by a trio of neo-Nazis, prompting an investigation into whether police failed to solve the crimes to prevent national embarrassment over the perpetrators.

Two of the alleged killers died after a botched bank robbery Nov. 4, when Uwe Mundlos, 38, shot Uwe Böhnhardt, 34, and killed himself, says the Federal Criminal Police Office. In their apartment police found the murder weapons and a DVD claiming responsibility for all the killings. The third alleged member, Beate Zschäpe, is awaiting trial.

The two men and possibly others, such as Zschäpe, committed their first murder in 2000, shooting flower vendor Enver Simsek eight times in Nuremberg, the Federal Prosecutors Office says. Eight more would die over the next six years, but it wasn't until the fifth killing that police determined the deaths were connected.

The gun used to kill Yunus Turgut in 2004 as he opened his kebab shop in Rostock in eastern Germany was the same Czech pistol used in the previous four murders. But still the killers were not caught.

Two years and four victims later, the killings ceased and the case went quiet until last month when police who were chasing the robbers of a bank came across a burned out camper van with the corpses of Mundlos and Böhnhardt inside.

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