Merkel apologises over German neo-Nazi killings

The string of killings of small businessmen, long known as the "kebab murders," went unsolved for years.

Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday
apologised to the relatives of 10 people, mostly immigrants,
believed to have been killed by a neo-Nazi group that eluded
German authorities` detection for more than a decade.

The National Socialist Underground group -- its name a
clear reference to the Nazis` full name, the National
Socialists -- is suspected of killing eight people of Turkish
origin and a Greek man between 2000 and 2006, as well as a
policewoman in 2007.

The string of killings of small businessmen, including a
florist, a tailor and fast-food stall owners, long known as
the "kebab murders," went unsolved for years, with authorities
suspecting organised crime rather than politically motivated

"The murders ... are a disgrace for our country," Merkel
said during a memorial event at a Berlin concert house,
attended by most of Germany`s top officials and relatives of
the victims. She pledged to do everything possible to clear up
what happened.

Merkel acknowledged that, for a long time, few people
imagined far-right terrorists could be behind the killings
"that led instead to a search for clues in the mafia and drug
scene, or even among the families of the victims."

"For years, some relatives themselves unfairly faced
suspicion that is particularly oppressive," Merkel said. "I
ask for forgiveness for that."

The neo-Nazi group`s activities only came to light last
November when two suspected founders, Uwe Boehnhardt and Uwe
Mundlos, were found dead following an apparent murder-suicide
as police closed in on them after a bank robbery, and a third
alleged core member, Beate Zschaepe, turned herself in.

Police found the murdered policewoman`s service weapon in
a burning mobile home where the two bodies were found, then
discovered a pistol used in the businessmen`s killings at a
burned-out apartment used by the group.

Investigators found copies of a propaganda video at the
apartment, featuring pictures of the victims and a cartoon
image of the Pink Panther standing next to a placard
proclaiming "Germany Tour, 9th Turk Shot."