Germany to disband special forces unit over ‘toxic’ far-right members

The elite German unit has been unable to shake off accusations that its troops have close links to far-right extremists

Soldiers from the Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK), the German Bundeswehr's special forces, take part in a training exercise in Calw, southern Germany AP
Soldiers from the Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK), the German Bundeswehr's special forces, take part in a training exercise in Calw, southern Germany AP

Germany’s elite KSK special forces unit is to be disbanded by the Ministry of Defence over persistent problems with “toxic” far-right members.

The elite company, formed in 1996, has been dogged by accusations of far-right ties since 2003, when its commander was forced into retirement because of connections to the radical right.

In June, a KSK captain wrote to German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer asking her to intervene in the unit over a “toxic culture of acceptance”.

The atmosphere fostered by senior instructors and commandos had allowed the influence of the far-right in the company to fly under the radar, the captain said.

A month earlier, police seized weapons, explosives and ammunition during a raid on the private property of a KSK soldier in the eastern state of Saxony. There have been several recent far-right incidents in the unit.

According to a ministry document, the group will be disbanded because of this history and the actions of individual leaders.

Germany has been plagued by a rise in far-right ideology in recent months, which authorities have looked to curb.

In February, a 43-year-old racist shot dead nine people with immigrant backgrounds in the town of Hanau before killing his mother and himself.

As part of the crackdown on far-right extremists, KSK operations will be moved to other units as far as possible and the commando unit’s exercises and international co-operation endeavours will be suspended until further notice.

The KSK aims have 1,000 members but has never reached that number because of tough selection tests.

Updated: July 1, 2020 03:25 PM

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