BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's elite KSK special forces unit is to survive despite a series of far-right incidents that had prompted calls for it to be disbanded, the defence minister decided on Tuesday.
The Special Forces Commando unit will continue to exist because reforms started a year ago when the scandal broke were yielding results, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement.
Established in 1996, the KSK's reputation was tarnished in 2003 when its then-commander was forced into early retirement after he was accused of being close to far-right extremists - links that have continued to dog the unit's reputation.
Last summer, Kramp-Karrenbauer disbanded a company of the KSK after police seized weapons and ammunition during a raid on the property of a KSK soldier in the eastern state of Saxony. Investigations have been ongoing since then.
"It is clear that we need the unique military capabilities provided by the KSK," Kramp-Karrenbauer said a day after a visit to the unit at its base in the Black Forest town of Calw on Monday.
She made clear that the KSK will have to properly implement the reforms started a year ago.
The "positive change" she had seen in Calw had been a significant factor in her decision to let the unit survive, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.
The German military has been rattled by several far-right incidents in recent years. In May, a young army officer went on trial in Frankfurt, accused of planning to attack one or more politicians while posing as an Syrian asylum seeker to try to whip up anger against migrants.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Giles Elgood)