Far-right German soldier who posed as refugee found in possession of a ‘death list’
A German investigation into the case of a soldier who pretended to be a Syrian refugee with the suspected intention of committing a terrorist act has been broadened after police confirmed he was in possession of a ‘death list’ that included the names of left-wing politicians and activists.
The 28-year-old soldier, so far only identified as Franco A., was arrested last Wednesday following a two-month investigation that began when he was questioned by police at Vienna airport after he tried to retrieve a handgun he had hidden in a toilet there a few days before. When police checked his fingerprints they matched up, not with the soldier, but with a Syrian Asylum seeker. During the investigation it was discovered that Franco A. had posed as a Christian fleeing the war in Syria and been granted asylum, even though he spoke no Arabic. He was also found to be in contact with far-right extremists, leading investigators to suspect he intended to carry out some kind of attack and try to blame it on a refugee.
A 24-year-old student with whom the soldier was in contact was arrested in a raid that uncovered bullets, flares and other contraband. The student, identified as Matthies F. and Franco A. both come from the town of Offenbach, near Frankfurt, where they belong to the same rowing club. It has also emerged that a “death list” featuring the names of left-wing activists, including that of Anne Helm, a Berlin city councillor for the left-wing Die Linke party was found in the soldier’s possession. On Saturday, Der Spiegel reported that he had attended a French university where he wrote a master’s thesis on ‘political change and subversion strategy’ which was found to contain far-right ideas. Fears that ultra-nationalists have been enlisting with the German army were heightened last month when it was revealed in a letter seen by Reuters that the military counterintelligence services were investigating 275 cases of right-wing extremism among its ranks. The cases mostly involved racist commentary online including a soldier calling for the death sentence for ‘typical foreigners’ on a Facebook page associated with the neo-Nazi National Development Party and another instance of a soldier heard using Nazi salutes like ‘Heil Hitler, and ‘Sieg Heil, comrades.’
From July, new background checks will be put in place with the hope of preventing extremists from entering the military and receiving weapons training which they could use to carry out attacks.