German spy chief warns of radical children
Children are being radicalised by their Islamist parents in Germany, the head of the domestic spy agency has warned.
The study will not be welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel as she continues to wrestle with the fallout from her 2015 decision to allow around 900,000 mainly Muslim migrants into Germany during the migrant crisis.
“The ongoing jihadist radicalisation of children is worrisome and presents a challenge,” said Hans-Georg Maaßen of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).
Radicalisation at home could present a “significant security risk”, the intelligence chief said.
The latest intelligence study specifies that the threat also exists within a “low three-figure number” of families in Germany who have not travelled to Syria or Iraq.
German intelligence warned in December 2017 that the children of volunteers who travelled to Syria and Iraq to volunteer for so-called Islamic State could present a security risk when they returned to Germany.
Children in families that follow Islamist teachings were “raised with an extremist worldview that legitimises violence toward others and belittles those who do not belong to their group”, according to the report.
They show signs of “faster, earlier and more likely radicalisation”, it said.
Maaßen said he was worried that children who had never left Germany were being exposed to Islamist extremism in their homes.
“There are signs minors and young adults are more likely to be radicalised, and that it’s happening faster and earlier,” Maaßen said.
Several hundred children are members of Islamic extremist families, the BfV warned.
There have been calls to lower the legal minimum age limit for surveillance by the security agencies from the current age of 14.
Patrick Sensburg, an influential MP from Angela Merkel’s CDU, said the age limit had to be lowered to adapt to emerging threats.
“This is not about criminalising young people under 14 but defending against considerable risks in our country, for example through Islamist terrorism, which is also using children,” said Sensburg, the CDU’s security spokesman.
Bavaria has abandoned the minimum age limit for surveillance and other states have been called to follow suit.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, said it was considering dropping the limit.
“The inhibition threshold for violence is lower in these children,” said Herbert Reul, the provincial interior minister. “The authorities, therefore, need the tools to take care of traumatised and violent returnees under the age of 14.”
The number of returnees from Syria and Iraq is measured in the low hundreds by the authorities. Picture credit: Wikimedia