German prosecutors have formally arrested a woman suspected of founding a far-right terror group believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 10 people.
The woman was arrested as criticism of the authorities for failing to prevent the murders increased. Identified only as Beate Z, she is accused of helping to found the group, which called itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU) and is thought to have killed nine immigrants and a police officer.
The 36-year-old has refused to co-operate with police since turning herself in last Tuesday. Two other suspected founders, named only as Uwe M and Uwe B, killed themselves after a botched bank robbery on 4 November.
Beate Z is suspected of setting fire to the house where she and the two men lived, in an attempt to destroy evidence.
When they searched the house, in the city of Zwickau, Saxony, police found the guns used in the murders of immigrant shopkeepers and food sellers – eight Turks and one Greek – between 2000 and 2006. The NSU is also believed to have shot a policewoman dead in Heilbronn in 2007.
Officers found DVD recordings on which the men admitted carrying out the murders and threatened more killings, according to Der Spiegel magazine.
The case has prompted a fierce debate over the German government's ability to protect immigrants as it seeks to attract skilled workers from abroad . [YEP WE NEED SKILLED SHOPKEEPERS AND FOOD SELLERS IN DEUTSCHLAND]
"I find it shocking that our country was not capable of protecting 10 innocent people from a band of far-right terrorists," Thomas Oppermann, a senior politician with the opposition Social Democrats , said.
Oppermann said Angela Merkel's government had slashed the budget for fighting far-right extremism in recent years.
The authorities are investigating whether the group was also responsible for other crimes with racist and antisemitic motives, including a nail bomb attack on a Cologne street predominantly inhabited by Turkish people in 2004 and an attack on a group of Russian Jewish immigrants at a Düsseldorf railway station in 2000.
The interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, described the murders as a "new form of extreme-right terror", and said all unsolved suspected xenophobic crimes in Germany should be reviewed to see whether they could be connected to the NSU.
The arrested woman and the two men were from the eastern German city of Jena, and had been members of the far-right scene there since the early 1990s.
In 1998, police raided a garage rented by Beate Z and discovered pipe bombs and explosives. Warrants were issued for their arrest, but the three fled.