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.

Terror threat in the Netherlands ‘substantial’

According to Dutch government counter-terrorism chief Tjibbe Joustra, the threat of a terrorist attack in the Netherlands is higher than ever. At present, the threat level rests at its second highest level – “substantial.” Justra, however, said that he believes the level should be set to “substantial plus.” He dies not say what specific threats have lead to this occasion.

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Analysis: terror threat remains

Despite the fact that Islamist extremists have only mounted one “successful” attack in Britain – the 7/7 bombings in which 56 people died – the threat of terrors attacks in the UK has not gone away. The official threat level is classed as being “Severe” – this is one down from the highest level, “Critical”, which means an attack is imminent.

Over the last few months, the British have become focused on the economy, falling house prices and the credit crunch, but it should not be forgotten that a significant number of UK citizens have been planning to carry out attacks with the aim of causing mass casualties.

The report leaked to The Sunday Telegraph identifies three areas – London, Birmingham and Luton – which MI5 and Special Branch believe are enclaves or hot beds of terrorist activity, where “some thousands” of extremists committed to supporting Jihadi activities. It is this fact alone which will worry the security services the most.

Each of these areas has sizeable Muslim populations. While the vast majority are peace loving and regard militant Islam as an abomination, some are also in denial about the size of the threat from members of their communities. But it should not be forgotten that Islamist terrorists are members of a covert conspiracy, where even members of there own families have little idea that their sons or daughters have become radicalised.

The Government has attempted to combat the radicalisation of disaffected members of the Muslim community by urging religious leaders to ban Islamist preachers from getting a foothold in mosques.

While this policy has met with some success, this report would suggest that the numbers of young Muslims signing up to al-Qaeda philosophy is growing. Preventing radicalisation is almost an impossible task especially when Britain and a large number of its allies are locked into conflict in Muslim countries. The report also tells us that Islamist groups are still managing to send British nationals, some of whom will be Muslim converts, to fight against British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Hundreds of potential terrorists live in Germany, official says

There are roughly 700 people in Germany who the interior ministry believes may be involved in extremist Islam circles, the ministry’s deputy head said. Of the some 700 people in Germany suspected of being Islamic terrorists, a “double digit” number of them have been classified by the country’s 16 states as dangerous and are “under especially intense surveillance,” Hanning said. Radical Islamists in Germany have also taken part in terror training camps in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, added Hanning, who previously served as the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency.

Terrorists’ targets tend to be crowded, public areas that are difficult to secure, Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning told the Sunday, Nov. 2, edition of Berlin’s BZ am Sonntag. “Suspects plan inhuman forms of attacks against so-called soft targets,” he told the paper in comments made available ahead of publication.

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