Spy chief predicts more terror attacks
Germany should prepare for terror attacks given growing numbers of potential Islamist militants and far-right extremists, its security services warned while declaring that efforts to prosecute, convict and deport suspects would be increased.
Cases of far-right violence rose to 1,600 last year, up from 1,408 in 2015, it was reported. There was an overall rise in the number of neo-Nazis considered “violence-orientated” with 12,100 in 2016, up from 11,800 in 2015, Hans-Georg Maassen, president of Germany’s Verfassungsschutz or BfV domestic intelligence service, told the media. The intelligence agency estimated that more than half of far-right extremists in Germany were potentially violent.
Germany suffered five Islamic militant attacks last year, while another seven operations failed or were prevented, he said.
Although Tunisian Anis Amri had been under surveillance, he was able to hijack a truck in December and drive it into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin (pictured), killing 12 people and injuring many more. It was the first mass-casualty Islamist attack in Germany.
“We must expect further attacks by individuals or terror groups,” Maassen said.
“Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing the BfV and we see it as one of the biggest threats facing the internal security of Germany,” the spy chief said.
The BfV claimed many Germans were losing inhibitions about violent racism with the report saying that more people without any connection to the far-right scene were now carrying out attacks on migrants. This “pointed to radicalisation processes … beyond the organised far-right spectrum”, the report said.
Last year’s report by the intelligence agency estimated there were 24,400 Islamists in Germany, including 9,700 Salafists, with that number rising. He added that not all were considered violent. There were also 10,000 members of the Turkish Islamist Milliu Gorus movement, the BfV reported.
The total number of suspected Islamists marks a drop from the year earlier, but the report said that did not mean the threat had diminished.
“In fact the opposite is the case,” the report said, pointing to “a more violence-prone and terrorist spectrum”.
Numerous “jihadists” had arrived with more than 1 million migrants who had come into Germany over the past two years.
Around 680 potential Islamists, most of whom were influenced by Salafist ideology, were being monitored, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. They were considered “Gefährder” or “endangerers”, he said.
The intelligence chief added that there was a record number of arrests, prosecutions and deportations over the past year.
Maassen estimated that 930 people had left Germany to fight with Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, of whom about 20 per cent were female.
After the 2016 Berlin Christmas market truck attack. Picture credit: Wikimedia