German Counterintelligence Head Quits Amid Neo-Nazi Probe

Germany’s chief of counter-intelligence quit amid an unfolding investigation into an underground neo-Nazi cell, following revelations that files detailing government surveillance of the group were destroyed.

Heinz Fromm, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, informed Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of his decision, Markus Beyer, a ministry spokesman, told reporters in Berlin today. Fromm who has headed the office since 2000, will take early retirement on July 31.

A top-level probe and a parliamentary investigation are examining how a group known as the National Socialist Underground was able to carry out a series of murders, attacks and bank robberies for over a decade. The investigation has also turned to the role of domestic intelligence.

Fromm, 63, told Der Spiegel in this week’s edition that a “grave loss of trust” in his office occurred. The magazine had reported that a counterintelligence employee destroyed files in November after the cell’s crimes came to light. The documents detailed the activity of government agents in an extremist group in the eastern state of Thuringia that members of the NSU later joined, Spiegel reported.

In what Chancellor Angela Merkel called a “disgrace for Germany,” the cell is accused of killing nine men of Turkish or Greek origin and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007, carrying out a bomb attack in Cologne and robbing banks to raise cash. The racially motivated crimes remained unsolved until last November, when the corpses of two of the group’s members were found, leading to a trove of evidence detailing connections with Germany’s neo-Nazi scene and possible knowledge of secret government agents.

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