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Bundeswehr scandal: Von der Leyen regrets statements made in interviews - but does not take anything back

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has apologized to the generals and admirals of the Bundeswehr for their blanket criticism of the troops' leaders. The CDU politician did not take back her statement that there was "an attitude problem" and "weak leadership on various levels" in the Bundeswehr.

The minister gathered around 100 Bundeswehr executives in Berlin on Thursday to talk to them about the latest cases of right-wing extremism, bullying and sexual harassment. As reported on Friday from participants, she said at the meeting about the soldiers and civilian employees of the Bundeswehr: "No matter where these men and women serve or work - it is an indispensable service for our country. For that they deserve thanks and recognition. I wish "I would have said these sentences in advance in the five-minute interview on right-wing extremism over the weekend. I'm sorry I didn't do it. I'm sorry." "Spiegel" also reported on the minister's address.

The chairman of the Federal Armed Forces Association, André Wüstner, welcomed the move away from the Leyens from the initially blanket criticism. He said in the ARD "Morgenmagazin": "It is always difficult for politicians to say that I made a mistake." Many participants in the meeting on Thursday were therefore pleasantly surprised.

Affair with Franco A. led to statements

The background to this is the affair surrounding the right-wing extremist Bundeswehr officer Franco A. The 28-year-old German, who pretended to be a Syrian refugee, is suspected of having planned a terrorist attack. So far it is unclear why Franco A.'s misconduct at individual Bundeswehr locations was not reported to higher authorities and why the MAD military intelligence service was not informed in good time.

The case of Franco A. and the Bundeswehr 1/15
  • July 1, 2008: Franco A. begins his basic military service in Idar-Oberstein.

  • September 11, 2009: Transfer to the German Staff Group in France, study of political and social sciences at the French military academy in Saint-Cyr.

  • December 2013: Franco A. submits his master's thesis to the French examination board. In it, he complains, among other things, of a deliberate “mixing” of the peoples of Europe.

  • January 8, 2014: The French school commander informs A.'s superior about serious deficiencies in the master's thesis. He says: If a French had written something like that, he would have to go. A. asserts that he does not pursue extremist ideas.

  • January 15, 2014: The supervisor consults a legal advisor at the Armed Forces Office.

  • January 18, 2014: An expert from the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr states that the work is "a radical nationalist, racist appeal".

  • January 27, 2014: A disciplinary preliminary investigation is closed after Franco A. has commented on the content of his work. A. points out, among other things, the time pressure he was under when writing the paper.

  • July 9, 2015: Appointment as a professional soldier.

  • December 19, 2015: Franco A. reports in Offenbach as the asylum seeker "David Benjamin". He was later assigned to accommodation in the Erding district.

  • February 1, 2016: Transfer to Jäger Battalion 291 in Illkirch.

  • December 16, 2016: Granting subsidiary protection status by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

  • February 3, 2017: Temporary arrest of A. by the Austrian police after a weapon was found in a toilet at Vienna Airport.

  • February 14, 2017: BKA forwards information on A.'s double identity to MAD. Troop should not be informed because of ongoing investigations.

  • April 26, 2017: Franco A. is arrested in Hammelburg.

  • April 28, 2017: Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) gave the order to examine A.'s business environment. Investigations in Illkirch, Schwarzenborn, Munster and Hammelburg.

dpa / AZ