WORLD

Far-right motive mooted in German pro-migrant official's murder

German authorities say are taking charge of the investigation into the killing of a regional official from Chancellor Angela Merkel's party. Public broadcaster SWR reported Monday that investigators suspect a political motive in the fatal shooting of 65-year-old at his home near Kassel earlier this month. German news agency dpa reported that a 45-year-old suspect arrested Saturday is believed to have ties to far-right extremists.

German said Monday they had taken over the of a pro-migrant local city official, suggesting they suspect a .

Police commandos had on Saturday arrested a suspect in the June 2 assassination-style shooting of Kassel city administration chief , 65, on the basis of DNA evidence.

"We have taken over the case," said a spokeswoman of the federal prosecution service in the city Karlsruhe, which deals with crimes motivated by political and religious extremism.

Authorities did not discuss the possible motive, but German media reported that the 45-year-old suspect from the same city had in the past been connected with far-right extremist circles.

Federal prosecutors assumed control of the investigation after "the suspicion of a right-wing extremist or right-wing terrorist background firmed up," said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

Three opposition parties -- the Greens, Free Democrats and far-left Die Linke -- urged a special parliamentary hearing into what could be 's first targeted killing of an elected official in decades.

Luebcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, was shot in the head at close range late at night on the terrace of his home near Kassel, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Frankfurt.

He had passionately spoken out in defence of migrants at the height of Europe's 2015 refugee crisis, drawing the fury of the far right for telling anti-migrant agitators they "could leave Germany".

Since his death, hundreds of posts from social media accounts tied to right-wing extremists have hailed his murder, in turn drawing strong condemnations from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other politicians.

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Der Spiegel weekly reported, without citing sources, that the suspect in custody had in the past had clear connections to the right-wing extremist scene and links to the neo-Nazi NPD party.

He had come to police attention for acts of violence as well as weapons and property offences, the magazine reported, adding that it was naming him to avoid imperilling the wider investigation.

It said the suspect had received a seven-month suspended jail term a decade ago after he had joined right-wing radicals who attacked a May 1 Labour Day trade unionist march in the western city of Dortmund.

If the shooting death was indeed motivated by right-wing extremism, it would be Germany's first such political murder of an elected official in decades, recalling Britain's 2016 killing of British Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox.

Several German politicians have been badly injured, among them parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble who has used a wheelchair since surviving a 1990 shooting by a deranged assailant, and Cologne city mayor Henriette Reker, who survived a 2015 knife assault by a man angered by her pro-refugee stance.

From the 1970s to early 1990s, Germany was terrorised by a wave of political assassinations at the hands of the far-left militant Red Army Faction, which emerged out of the anti-Vietnam war protest movement.

The RAF launched a spate of shootings, bombings and kidnappings targeting politicians, police, bankers, business leaders and US troops.

More recently Germany was shocked to learn that the far-right militant group National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed nine Turkish and Greek-born immigrants and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007, and carried out bomb attacks and bank robberies.

Free Democrats lawmaker Benjamin Strasser was among politicians sounding the alarm Monday, telling media group RND that "for years, threats from the extreme right against politicians have been on the rise".

"We need to decisively clear up and take effective measures against right-wing terrorist structures."

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