Germany recorded a significant rise in the number of right-wing extremists last year, after security agencies added thousands of members of the country's main far-right party to the count.
An annual report on extremism in Germany released Thursday estimates the number of right-wing extremists in the country at 32,080 last year. This is an increase of almost 8,000 compared to the figure of 24,100 recorded in 2018.
The report, released by the BfV domestic intelligence agency, includes for the first time around 7,000 members of the Alternative for Germany party's youth section and a radical faction known as The Wing. Both have come under heightened scrutiny from the BfV because of their perceived extremist tendencies.
German authorities vowed to step up measures against far-right extremism following the killing of a regional politician by a suspected neo-Nazi, an attack on a synagogue in Halle and the fatal shooting of nine people in Hanau over the past year.
"(Far-right extremism) is the biggest security policy challenge in our country," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters at the presentation of the report in Berlin.
Authorities in Munich announced that they have searched premises linked to 12 German citizens in three states and neighboring Austria on suspicion of smuggling weapons into the country. The suspects are affiliated with the far-right and the Reich Citizens movement, a loose grouping that denies the legitimacy of the current German state.
The number of far-left extremists increased by 1,500 to 33,500 last year, according to the report. More than two-thirds of those are classified as "not violence-oriented."
FAR-RIGHT AND FAR-LEFT CRIME RISE IN GERMANY IN 2019
Criminal offences inspired by both far-right and far-left ideas rose in Germany in 2019, an annual domestic intelligence report released by the interior ministry showed on Thursday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was forced to act last year on right-wing political violence after the killing of a pro-immigration politician and an attack on a synagogue and a kebab shop by an anti-Semitic gunman, which left two dead.
The government imposed tougher rules on gun ownership and stricter monitoring of hate speech online, responding to a rise in hate crime.
Individuals with far-right world views committed more than 22,300 offences in 2019, the interior ministry figures showed, including two murders, five attempted murders and almost 800 bodily injuries, a rise of almost 10%.
Thomas Haldenwang, head of the BfV domestic security agency, said anti-Semitic crime rose by 17% and 94% of the offences raging from bodily harm to verbal abuse and anti-Semitic propaganda were carried out by far-right sympathisers.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said a rise in criminal offences by far-right oriented individuals against foreigners and Muslims had also risen.
"We have to remain vigilant and ready to act," said Seehofer.
Germany was also shaken this year by the killing in February of eight women and a man with foreign background in a shooting spree at Shisha bars in the western city of Hanau by a gunman espousing conspiracy theories and deeply racist views.
The killings will appear in next year's report.
This year's report also found that criminal offences committed by far-left sympathisers had risen to 6,400, a increase of 40%. This included two attempted murders and 355 bodily harm offences.