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Embattled German spymaster wants to double agency staff - media

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By Reuters
Embattled German spymaster wants to double agency staff - media
Hans-Georg Maassen, President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution arrives for a meeting of the parliamentary committee, that oversees German intelligence agencies in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch   -   Copyright  FABRIZIO BENSCH(Reuters)

BERLIN (Reuters) – The embattled chief of Germany’s BfV domestic security agency wants to more than double his staff to 6,000 people by 2021, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday, citing sources at the interior ministry.

Hans-Georg Maassen is facing calls to step down after he cast doubt on the authenticity of video footage showing far-right protesters chasing migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz after the fatal stabbing of a German-Cuban man.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer – both conservatives – have said the issue will not bring down their fragile ruling coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), who are calling for Maassen’s ouster.

Maassen, who has said his comments on Chemnitz were misunderstood, plans to expand his agency to match the size of the BND foreign intelligence service, which employs 6,500, Der Spiegel reported. The BfV currently has around 2,900 employees.

A spokesman for the interior ministry, which oversees the BfV agency, declined to comment on the Spiegel report, citing restrictions on public information about the agency.

Der Spiegel said Maassen planned to restructure the agency divisions responsible for counter-espionage, Islamist extremism and counter-sabotage to keep up with expanding threats.

Merkel is due to meet Seehofer and SPD leaders on Tuesday to discuss Maassen’s fate after failing to end the row on Thursday.

Police have arrested two migrants, an Iraqi and a Syrian, as suspects in the killing of the German-Cuban man, which triggered the worst far-right violence Germany has seen in decades and counter-protests by supporters of Merkel’s liberal immigration polices.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Tom Koerkemeier; Editing by Ros Russell)