Young neo-Nazi is accused of Turkish killings

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A 19-YEAR-OLD neo-Nazi was charged yesterday with the murder of three Turks in an arson attack last week. The Federal Prosecutor's Office said it had 'very strong evidence' that the man, named only as Lars C, was responsible, along with 'at least one other person', for the fire-bomb attack on the night of 23 November on the house in Molln, northern Germany, in which several Turkish families lived.

Two girls, aged 10 and 14, and a 51-year-old grandmother, died in the flames. The Federal Prosecutor's Office said that the charges against Lars C, an apprentice who lives in Molln, were based on the statement of a witness at the scene of the crime, confirmed by subsequent inquiries. The charges include triple murder, attempted murder and arson.

Lars C has been a member, since the beginning of September at the latest, of a neo-Nazi group led by a 25-year-old man who was arrested last week, along with nine others, on suspicion of having carried out several earlier fire-bombings against asylum-seekers' hostels in northern Germany.

According to the prosecutor's office, Lars C had already participated on 5 September, along with 30 masked comrades armed with clubs and petrol bombs, in an attack on a hostel in Pritzier, in eastern Germany. In all, 11 members of the group that had been on the rampage in the north of the country are now under arrest. The group is said to be an extreme-right terrorist organisation dedicated to acts of violence against foreigners.

The killing of the three Turks provoked a storm of outrage both in Germany and abroad, and impelled the government in Bonn to adopt a tougher line against extreme-right activities. The reaction in Israel has been particularly harsh, with the government in Jerusalem expressing its deepest concern at the recrudescence of 'racism, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism in Germany'.

In a response to such statements, the Bonn government said yesterday that 'with all due respect for Israeli concern about neo-Nazi activities in Germany, the government states with all necessary firmness that these are the excesses of isolated groups, which will be pursued with all the toughness of the law'. The Bonn government gave an assurance that 'the authorities are making every effort to solve these problems of internal security'.

The leader of the Jewish community in Germany, Ignatz Bubis, warned yesterday against the risk of people becoming complacent because of the daily reports of extreme-right outrages. Noting that 16 people had died already this year as a result of right-wing violence, Mr Bubis said in a speech at the memorial of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, that 'we simply cannot behave as if such a situation were normal'.

The violence against foreigners continued over the weekend, despite the new, tough approach adopted by the authorities. Two more asylum-seekers' hostels were fire-bombed, as was a house belonging to Turks, on Sunday night.

According to the head of the Centre for Turkish Studies in Essen, Professor Faruk Sen, Turks living in the Ruhr industrial heartland are beginning to arm themselves and form self-defence groups out of fear of escalating racist violence.