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Germany Disbands Elite Military Unit Following Reports Of Right Wing Extremism

Soldiers of the Command Special Forces (KSK) of the Bundeswehr are preparing to rappel from a helicopter during an exercise in 2004.
Soldiers of the Command Special Forces (KSK) of the Bundeswehr are preparing to rappel from a helicopter during an exercise in 2004.

Germany's defense minister on Wednesday disbanded a unit of the country's elite commando force, known as the KSK, following an official report earlier this year that found far-right extremism within its ranks.

In January, a report by Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service revealed that some 500 soldiers in the German military, or Bundeswehr, were being investigated for far-right extremism. It noted that 20 of those cases involved soldiers who were part of the Command Special Forces, or KSK – an anti-terrorism and hostage rescue unit with approximately 1,300 soldiers.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the KSK had created a "wall of secrecy" around itself and she told the Süddeutsche Zeitungnewspaper on Tuesday that the elite force had developed a "toxic leadership culture" and "cannot continue to exist in its present form."

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the Inspector General of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn (left) inspect the guard of honour during a swearing-in ceremony of German Bundeswehr soldiers at the Bendlerblock in Berlin, last July.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the Inspector General of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn (left) inspect the guard of honour during a swearing-in ceremony of German Bundeswehr soldiers at the Bendlerblock in Berlin, last July.

Some of the 70 soldiers from the disbanded company would be reassigned to one of the KSK's three other combat companies, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

"We will give the KSK time to press the reset button," she said.

However, Kramp-Karrenbauer insisted "we need the KSK."

"The vast majority of the men and women in the KSK and in the Bundeswehr as a whole are loyal to our constitution, with no ifs or buts," she said.

According to Deutsche Welle, the extremism allegations date back to 2017, when KSK members at a party performed the Nazi salute and played right-wing extremist music.

In May, investigators discovered Nazi memorabilia, weapons and explosives on the property of a sergeant major assigned to the KSK, according to Deutsche Press-Agentur.

In yet another incident, which Kramp-Karrenbauer called "disturbing" and "alarming," authorities were looking into the disappearance of 48,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 135 pounds (62 kilograms) of explosives from the elite unit's arsenal.

The KSK's training and deployments have been scaled back while the investigation continues, according to Deutsche Welle.

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