Germany's intel chief to step up efforts against far right

Germany's intel chief plans large expansion of department monitoring far-right extremists

Thomas Haldenwang told Friday's edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that he wants a 50 percent increase in the department's size next year, bringing it closer to the size of the section that deals with Islamic extremism. He wouldn't give staff figures, saying they are secret.

Haldenwang said that "there has been a new dynamic in right-wing extremism for some time." He added that it is no longer always the case that "normal demonstrators" keep their distance from extremists.

Haldenwang took over the BfV agency when predecessor Hans-Georg Maassen was removed after appearing to downplay far-right violence against migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz.

He wouldn't comment on the events surrounding Maassen's departure, but said the events in Chemnitz were a good illustration of developments in right-wing extremism — not just in Germany's formerly communist and less prosperous east.

He said the BfV believes there are 24,000 far-right extremists in Germany, a number that is rising, and more than half are "violence-oriented."

Haldenwang was tightlipped on the agency's assessment of the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party, which entered the national parliament last year and now has seats in all 16 German state legislatures. Asked whether that has boosted far-right extremism, he replied that "in any case, it doesn't seem to be detrimental."

The BfV is considering whether to put the party under observation. Political opponents argue that recent protests point to an increasing blurring of boundaries between the party and the extreme right neo-Nazi scene.