The Insider Threat: Far-Right Extremism in the German Military and Police

On February 3, 2017, Franco Hans A., a German national from Offenbach in the West German state of Hesse, entered a restroom for the disabled at Vienna-Schwechat airport and began trying to break open a maintenance shaft on one of the walls. Shortly after, a police team moved in and arrested him on terrorism charges. They had been expecting that someone would show up and pick up the gun, which had been stored in the restroom, but had no idea who it would be. A week earlier, a cleaning person had discovered the handgun hidden in a shaft in the restroom and notified the police. The shaft was then outfitted with an electronic alarm system.

Soon after they arrested Franco A., Austrian police found out he was a German national and an officer of the Bundeswehr (German armed forces). His phone and a USB stick were confiscated and his fingerprints were taken, then Franco A. was released and sent back to Germany. Austrian investigators of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung (BVT) then informed the German Federal Police (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) and Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), and the Federal Office for Military Counterintelligence Service (Bundesamt für den Militärischen Abschirmdienst, BAMAD) about the arrest.

After Franco A.’s arrest in Vienna, German police started an investigation into him but did not immediately arrest him. He was identified by German authorities as a soldier in the German military stationed with the Bundeswehr’s Jägerbatallion 291 at a joint French-German military base in Illkirch, Bas-Rhin department in northeastern France. In the past, he had been flagged for possible far-right extremist views because of a master’s thesis he wrote at the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr in December 2013.

Read more at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point

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