Investigators believe a group of right-wing extremists in Thuringia may have been inspired by the Zwickau neo-Nazi cell, which is suspected of murdering at least 10 people. Intercepted phone communication included apparent coded references to plastic explosive and comments about "whacking" people.
The revelations that a Zwickau-based neo-Nazi cell calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) had apparently murdered at least 10 people between 2000 and 2007 shocked Germany when the group's existence was discovered in November 2011. Now there is evidence that a separate group in the eastern German state of Thuringia may have been planning copycat attacks.
Public prosecutors in the city of Gera are currently investigating a number of right-wing extremists, identified only as Steffen R., 28, Marco Z., 34, and Thomas G., 33, on suspicion of "preparing a serious act of violent subversion."
Supicions were fanned by intercepted mobile phone communications. According to the authorities, on Dec. 29, 2011, around seven weeks after the NSU had been discovered, Thomas G. and Steffen R. discussed "modeling clay" that apparently had to be kept away from "electrical sources." The investigators believe that the men may have been referring to plastic explosives.
Two weeks later, Steffen R. received a text message from a telephone used by Thomas G. which read: "I've got your toy with me, you can now herald the Last Judgment." The message ends with: "Heil Beate!" ("Hail Beate!"), presumably a twin reference to the Nazi-era greeting and valediction "Heil Hitler!" and the alleged NSU member Beate Zschäpe, who is currently in pretrial detention.
"Beate will be proud of us," Steffen R. replied.
Thomas G. is believed to have had connections to people close to the Zwickau cell. Steffen R. is also regarded as a senior figure in the far-right scene. In March, investigators recorded a phone call in which he said that they should "finally whack" someone. The third suspect, Macro Z., is believed to have offered Kalashnikov rifles for sale.
When contacted by SPIEGEL, public prosecutors would not comment on the details of the case. Steffen R. and Marco Z. were arrested last week but denied the allegations in a hearing before a custodial judge. Steffen R. tried to explain the incriminating telephone communications by making a joke: The two men had wanted to check if their phones were being tapped, he said. Thomas G., who remains at large, could not be reached for comment.
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