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German Killed in South Africa; Shady Links to Neo-Nazis at Home

March 24, 1994 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ The killing of a German mercenary in South Africa has exposed a shady link to German neo-Nazis who work in trouble spots around the world.

South African police last week engaged in a shootout with three Germans near Pretoria, killing one and wounding a second man. The third man and leader of the three - Horst Klenz - fled, but was arrested Sunday, along with a fourth German.

Police suspect them of trading in illegal weapons to right-wing South Africans. German police said Klenz had been active as a mercenary in southern Africa for decades and also was involved in former Yugoslavia’s wars in 1993.

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The arrests came as South African police are investigating possible links between right-wingers in South Africa and Germany, according to spokesman Allard Christiaan Koole of the South African Embassy.

He said fanaticism seemed to be rising in South Africa as the country approaches its first all-race election next month.

It was apparent that some extremist groups had mercenaries ″to do their dirty work for them,″ he said by phone from Bonn.

Balkan bloodshed has also attracted German extremists, often to fight on the side of far-right Croatian groups. Extremists from elsewhere in Europe, including Britain, have also reportedly shown up in former Yugoslavia.

In South Africa, Koole said he had heard of 15 Dutch extremists active in the country. An immigrant from Poland who was a violent anti-communist was convicted last year of killing Chris Hani, a leader of the African National Congress and of the Communist Party.

A report on German’s ARD national TV Tuesday said up to 80 Germans were in South Africa as contract soldiers. Koole said he could not confirm that figure.

German extremists in South Africa are organized in small cells of three to four men, an anonymous white South African woman said on the ARD program.

She said Klenz stayed in her home several days, and that his group came to the country to try to assassinate figures such as Nelson Mandela. Mandela leads the ANC, which is expected to win the voting on April 26-28.

Klenz had a police record of weapons law violations in Hamburg in the early 1980s. Authorities said that in the mid-1980s he turned to recruiting neo- Nazis for mercenary missions. He also has written for neo-Nazi publications.

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Klenz was also wanted for a killing in Namibia - a bomb attack on a United Nations office - and has repeatedly broken jail in Africa.

The man killed by South African police, Thomas Kunst, 32, of Itzehoe in northern Germany, was wanted for armed robbery of a post office in Luebeck, Germany, last December, said Luebeck prosecutor Klaus-Dieter Schultz.

But Schultz said Kunst had no known links to neo-Nazis there.

Other German police, speaking on condition of anonymity, said mercenaries were not necessarily extreme rightists. Often they were just criminals or adventurers.

But racist neo-Nazi ideology fits comfortably with the apartheid views of extremist South African whites. A historical German link also exists with South Africa’s neighbor Namibia, once a German colony.