Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Berlin Head of Domestic Intelligence to Step Down

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Berlin Head of Domestic Intelligence to Step Down

Article excerpt

The domestic intelligence agency is accused of bungling an investigation into a neo-Nazi terrorist cell..

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency resigned Monday under a shower of criticism over his office's alleged bungling of an investigation into a neo-Nazi terrorist cell that evaded the authorities for years, killing at least 10 people, most of them immigrant business owners.

Heinz Fromm, 63, was granted early retirement from his post as president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution days after it emerged that a head of department in his office had shredded documents containing potential evidence from the agency's paid informers about the members of the cell, known as the National Socialist Underground.

"This has led to grave loss of confidence in and seriously damaged the reputation of my office," Mr. Fromm told Der Spiegel in comments published Monday. He is to retire at the end of the month, after 12 years as the agency's president.

Existence of the neo-Nazi cell came to light in early November 2011 through a series of circumstances triggered by a botched robbery. Within days, the police had cracked the country's longest unsolved series of murders and disclosed the existence of a cell that had killed immigrant small-business owners, eight Turkish and one Greek, from 2000 to 2007. They also killed a police officer and wounded more than 20 people, mostly Turks, in a bomb attack, and they robbed many banks.

Disclosure of the cell, which had three members who relied on a vast support network to carry out their crimes, raised questions over the ability of the country's extensive security services to combat far-right terrorism effectively. In January, a parliamentary oversight committee was convened to examine how mistakes had arisen and could be avoided.

Last week, an official from the Interior Ministry testified to that committee that the head of a department in Mr. Fromm's office had destroyed seven files containing details about the cell's members, a day after the country's federal prosecutor had demanded that all documents be handed over for the investigation against the surviving suspected cell member, Beate Zschape. …

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