Germany orders probe after right-wing soldier infiltrates refugee home

GERMAN PRESS AGENCY - DPA
BERLIN
Published
Picturen taken on March 25, 2014, shows a German soldier standing to attention in front of a German Patriot missile launcher at the Gazi barracks in Kahramanmaraş, southern Turkey. (AFP Photo)
Picturen taken on March 25, 2014, shows a German soldier standing to attention in front of a German Patriot missile launcher at the Gazi barracks in Kahramanmaraş, southern Turkey. (AFP Photo)

Germany's interior minister has ordered an investigation into the federal migration agency in Nuremberg after a soldier with suspected right-wing terrorist motives was able to gain access to asylum accommodation by posing as a refugee.

"For complete clarification, I have established an investigative body within the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees [BAMF], which is to produce very quick results," Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement Saturday.

The investigation into the Bundeswehr soldier is to be conducted in coordination with the Defense Ministry, he added.

The 28-year-old lieutenant, who has shown right-wing extremist tendencies, is suspected of planning a violent attack against foreigners.

Despite speaking no Arabic, he was able to falsely register himself as a Syrian refugee.

BAMF, Germany's federal agency for handling migration and asylum claims, granted him limited protection following a hearing conducted in French in late 2016 - unaware that the impostor, who speaks fluent French, was a German citizen.

Identified as Franco A, the suspect has refused to testify to the charges against him.

De Maiziere said investigators would look into how such a breach could have occurred and, more broadly, consider the role of interpreters and migration officials in processing asylum cases.

The Interior Ministry and BAMF would "leave no stone unturned, until we know how this could have happened," a spokesman for the minister said in Berlin.

Following the scandal, BAMF has upped the workforce of its department for suspicious asylum cases by 40, Germany's Die Welt newspaper reported Saturday. The report said that the reshuffle has caused tensions among employees, with claims that some new recruits had only received a few days' training.

Now in custody, Franco A first came to the authorities' attention three months ago, after having hidden a gun in a toilet at Vienna airport. News magazine Spiegel reported that the 7.65-caliber pistol was a World-War-II era model dating back 70 years.

State prosecutors in Frankfurt believe that he had intended to carry out a serious act of violence. They have not released details on a possible target.

No official body, including the Bundeswehr's own intelligence agency, had suspected him of possible criminal behavior before the incident in Vienna.

Politicians and authorities remain baffled by the double-life that the suspect led as a supposed refugee.

Franco A was stationed as a Bundeswehr soldier in the French town of Illkirch. Lawmakers have described him as an unremarkable neighbor and a high-performing member of the military.

On first registering himself in late 2015 as a refugee in Offenbach, a small city east of Frankfurt, he was moved to a reception center for migrants in northern Bavaria, where he assumed the fictional role of a fruit seller from Damascus.

He told officials at the center in Zirndorf that he could not speak Arabic because he had grown up in a French colony in Damascus - a lie which they believed to be true.

The state ministry for integration reported that his behavior during his time as a resident had been "normal" and that he attended all necessary appointments.

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