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Germans note rise in right-wing extremism

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BONN, Germany -- The German government said on Thursday right-wing extremism was on the rise and reaching more people with the use of the Internet and rock music.

Germany's anti-extremist watchdog said in its annual report the number of far-right supporters in the country had increased 11 percent in 1998 to 53,600, including 8,200 people described as violent.This was an increase from 7,600 in 1997.

"We are deeply concerned about the activities of right-wing extremists," Interior Minister Otto Schily told a news conference to introduce a 218-page report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

"One has to assume the increase will continue in 1999," he said.

Schily said neo-Nazi groups were turning increasingly to the Internet to spread propaganda because of the anonymity and scope it afforded, adding that the number of right-wing extremist Web sites discovered in 1998 had nearly doubled.

In addition, Schily said the number of skinhead bands performing songs with racist lyrics had climbed to 100 from 70 in 1998.

"The skinhead music scene, where many young people start their involvement with groups ready to use violence, is, like last year, on the rise," Schily said.

He said the neo-Nazi faction of the right-wing scene remained stable in size compared to last year with 2,400 members.

Germany defines neo-Nazism as glorification of Hitler's fallen regime or denial of the Holocaust, while right-wing extremists include a range of nationalistic and racist ideologies.