Germany launches investigation after neo-Nazi killing spree

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BERLIN — Germany will fully investigate how a group of neo-Nazis managed to operate under the radar of authorities for years, allegedly killing 10 people and robbing a string of banks, the justice minister promised Thursday.

Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger acknowledged wide criticism — focused on the domestic intelligence agency — of authorities for apparently letting the gang slip through their hands for years. The case came to light earlier this month when two founding members apparently committed suicide after police closed in on them following a bank robbery.

“We are all asking how it could be that the security authorities allowed it to be possible for a known group of neo-Nazis to go underground at the end of the ‘90s and apparently over 13 years murder people in various German cities, carry out bombing attacks, and lethally attack police officers,” she said.

The group called itself the National Socialist Underground — a clear reference to the full name of the Nazis, a contraction of “National Socialists.” It is suspected of murdering eight people of Turkish origin, one person with Greek roots and a policewoman.

The crimes have caused an outcry and soul-searching across the country, especially among immigrant groups who maintain that authorities were too quick to dismiss the murders as regular street crime rather than extremism.