May 12, 2017 / 6:45 PM / a year ago

German army suspends soldier for making far-right comments

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s armed forces have suspended a officer for making far-right comments, the defense ministry said on Friday, amid a widening scandal over fears of hardline racist views among soldiers.

German magazine Der Spiegel said the officer stationed in the western German town of Augustdorf had been heard making allegations about the existence of a far-right group inside the military - details that were not confirmed by the ministry.

The suspension comes days after the head of Germany’s armed forces called for an inspection of all army barracks after investigators discovered Nazi-era military memorabilia in a garrison.

Two other soldiers - named only as Franco A. and Maximilian T. - have been arrested on suspicion of planning a racially-motivated attack.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to crack down on hard-right views among the troops. She has blamed “weak leadership” across the military for failing to tackle the racist attitudes, bullying and sexual abuse.

Der Spiegel cited one of the suspended soldier’s comrades saying he had made comments about a “group of officers who are prepared to commit violence who are collecting weapons and munitions” based in the French town of Illkirch, home of a German-French brigade.

Franco A. and soldier Maximilian T. had both been stationed in Illkirch.

Defence Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said a soldier in Augustdorf had been banned from wearing his uniform - an effective suspension.

He confirmed it was in connection with reports about a soldier talking about a group in Illkirch, but did not comment on the other details of the Spiegel story.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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