Germany’s embattled defence minister has Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support over her handling of a scandal about far-right sympathisers in the army.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the defence minister had “the full support of the chancellor and the entire government in her effort to clarify all aspects of Franco A‘s case concerning the Bundeswehr”.
It follows the arrest of a German officer stationed at the shared Franco-German military installation in Illkirch, France. He is suspected of planning a racially motivated attack. Local media reported that a comrade of the 28-year-old lieutenant knew of his alleged plan.
As reported by Euronews onlines, the suspect, known only as Franco A, allegedly planned to strike in the guise of a Syrian refugee, having falsely registered.
In response, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen criticised the “weak leadership” across the military.
“His behaviour, his thinking which he clearly laid on the table, is intolerable,” she said. “Alarm bells should have been heard earlier so that he could not have climbed the career ladder in the German army.”
The minister also said it was unacceptable that the racism evident in a master’s thesis written by the suspect had not triggered disciplinary action by his superiors.
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that Von der Leyen visited Illkirch where she spoke to soldiers and inspected Franco A’s quarters.
“We need to have a no-holds-barred investigation, and I say this also with a view to other incidents in recent weeks where people were bullied, where they were denigrated, which won’t be tolerated under any circumstances,” she said.
At the barracks in Illkirch, where Franco A. was stationed, investigators found an assault rifle with a swastika etched into its side as well as numerous notes scribbled with extremist messages.