Analysis: Terror threat growing in Germany

Radical Islamic terrorism is becoming a more multifaceted and concrete threat to Germany.
“Islamist terrorism continues to be a real threat to Germans,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Tuesday in Berlin at the release of the 2008 report by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, an agency that monitors all forms of extremism in the country. Germany, Schaeuble said, is home to “a considerable Islamist personnel potential that also includes German Muslim converts.” An increasing number have been traveling to the border region shared by Afghanistan and Pakistan to receive training in al-Qaida-run terrorist camps, spy agencies have learned. Heinz Fromm, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the government agency that compiled the 303-page report, spoke of a “new quality” of radical Islamic threats directed at Germany. “We are seeing more video threats that are addressing Germany and its military engagement in Afghanistan directly, and they are increasingly in German,” he said. Many videos are also aimed at recruiting Muslims in Germany for jihad, Fromm added. Berlin has some 4,000 troops stationed with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In past years, authorities have foiled several attack plots in Germany that were aimed at protesting the country’s military involvement there.

But it’s not just radical Islamic terrorism that poses a security threat for Germany. The total number of right-wing extremist crimes in 2008 — a figure that also includes inciting racial hatred and spreading neo-Nazi propaganda material — shot up by 15.8 percent to 19,894, with 1,042 of the crimes violent. “The number of neo-Nazis, and this is alarming, has risen again,” Schaeuble said. The report says there are 4,800 neo-Nazis in Germany, up 400 from the previous year. The so-called Autonomous Nationalists, a group of black-clad right-wing extremists, have over the past year clashed repeatedly with left-wing extremists. “They are much more ready to use violence,” Fromm said. And it seems the neo-Nazis are not just clashing with their far-left counterparts. On May Day, a group of roughly 300 neo-Nazis attacked participants of a regular union demonstration with batons and stones — the first neo-Nazi attack on a peaceful demonstration. “That’s an escalation and a new phenomenon,” Fromm said.