Germany’s interior ministry cracks down on far-right group that operates through social media channels.
Ten German police officers have been suspended following the discovery of a neo-Nazi online chat group used for sharing far-right content in North Rhine-Westphalia, only the latest such case to emerge among the police forces in Germany’s most populous state.
The messages disseminated on the WhatsApp group, in which there were 15 participants, are thought to amount to criminal behaviour, State Minister for Internal Affairs Herbert Reul said on Tuesday.
He described the content as “highly xenophobic and inhuman”.
The number of employees in North Rhine-Westphalia security authorities facing similar allegations has grown to 191 since the first right-wing chat groups were discovered in September.
Reul gave examples of the kind of content shared in the most recent cases, including a picture of an Arab person seen through the sighting device of a rifle. There was also a comment on last year’s mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, saying, “Too many misses.”
The suspects were in a WhatsApp group called Kunta Kinte, set up back in 2015 and used by police officers who were members of a bowling group. Participants shared hundreds of messages, photos and videos including countless pictures of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Anti-Semitic comments were also sent.
Early on Tuesday, German officials raided the houses of active and retired police officers in connection with the revelations.
Seventeen locations were searched in the western state, including in the cities of Essen and Muelheim an der Ruhr. More than 600 storage devices were seized.
Nine suspects are facing charges of hate speech and using symbols banned under the German constitution.
Earlier this month, German federal prosecutors charged 12 alleged far-right conspirators suspected of planning “terrorist attacks” on politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims.
Eleven of the men, arrested in countrywide raids in February, stand accused of the membership of a “terrorist organisation” and weapons law violations. The 12th alleged conspirator has been charged with supporting a “terrorist group”.
The arrests followed raids, some by heavily armed special units, which hit 13 locations in six German states.
The four prime suspects planned to spark “a civil-war-like situation … via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith”, federal prosecutors said in February.
According to media reports earlier this year, the group planned to use semiautomatic weapons to mirror the attacks in Christchurch in March 2019 in which 51 people were killed at two mosques.