How did neo-Nazis go undetected?

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BERLIN — A 2000 firebomb targeting Russian Jewish immigrants at a Duesseldorf railway station.

A 2004 nail-bombing in a Cologne immigrant neighborhood.

A 2008 fire in a Ludwigshafen apartment building that killed nine Turkish immigrants, including five children.

All unsolved crimes, and all now reopened as suspected work of a small band of neo-Nazis who allegedly killed and terrorized minorities for a decade, undetected by Germany’s thousands of security authorities nationwide before they tripped up this month.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed a thorough investigation, calling the crimes “a disgrace, shameful for Germany.”

Yet many questions remain.

Key among them is whether the group is responsible for deadly hate crimes beyond the 10 deaths for which they are blamed, and whether other members or sympathizers are still at large.

More broadly, the nation is asking how such a group could have been allowed to carry out these crimes undetected for so long.

The case has provoked widespread criticism that in an effort to focus on leftist and Islamic terrorism, authorities have been blind to the threat of the right.

“If this had happened in Turkey, if eight or nine Germans had been killed with the same weapon and if the murderers were not found, all European nations would be up in arms, they would declare Turkey to be a barbarian country not fit to live in,” Elif Kubasik, whose husband, Mehmet, was killed in April 2006 in a slaying linked to the group, told Turkey’s Sabah daily.

Other families of the nine known minority victims have come forward with tales of how police suspected organized crime, drugs or interethnic rivalries - anything but far-right violence.

Aside from one Greek, all of these victims were of Turkish origin, and the group took responsibility for their deaths in a homemade video. The group also is thought have carried out the 2007 shooting death of a German police officer.

Authorities now are scrambling to determine whether the group was linked to other violent crimes targeting immigrants.

In the amateur DVD, the group also appeared to take credit for a 2004 bombing in the Muelheim district of Cologne, home to many Turks, in which 22 people were injured.

The interior minister at the time, Otto Schily, said that attack was likely “not terrorists but the criminal underworld.”

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