Armed thugs raise fear of `brown army'

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POLICE in eastern Germany have launched an investigation into reports that a small neo-Nazi group has obtained firearms. According to a German television report, the hitherto unknown Mecklenburg-Pomerania Squad has managed to kit itself out with Czech and Ukrainian weapons, including pistols and machineguns.

The group is believed to consist of 20 people. Interviewed on camera, its members showed off their wares, threatening to turn the guns on "the enemies of our people," rapists and "criminal foreigners".

Until now, none of the numerous splinter groups on the neo-Nazi scene have been able to arm themselves with anything more sophisticated than baseball bats. But the authorities are increasingly concerned at the potential of neo-Nazi terror.

The borderline between skinhead and neo-Nazi gangs is eroding, especially in the former East Germany. A "brown army"- a link-up between the thugs and the ideologues - is the ultimate nightmare of police forces in the region.