Home-grown terrorism in Germany – a new reality ?
The German public was shocked by the news that three terrorists had been arrested only days before planned attacks which would have killed hundreds of people. The head of the terrorist group is without doubt a German converted to Islam years ago, as thousands of Christians do every year in Germany. Converts are generally known as being often more extreme and fanatic than people who grew up with their religion. In Germany, it was a widespread illusion that Germany is different from other countries – like France, Spain, United Kingdom and USA – because of its “civil society” and restrictive foreign policy.
The imported terrorism
In the aftermath of 9/11 Germany had to recognize that it was misused as a kind of “safe haven” for both Al Qaeda’s planning cells and fund raising for terrorist groups. Some of the pilots and supporters of 9/11 lived in Hamburg, Germany, as students and ordinary citizens. After 9/11 politicians asked immediately for new laws and restrictions in order to fight terrorism. Some harder laws have been achieved.
But there is one decisive legal gap: there is no law in Germany which allows any preventive action against the roughly 30,000 Muslims in Germany who are regarded as ready to execute acts of violence (just 1 per cent of the total Muslim population). Within this group there are about 300 – 800 so-called “Gefährder” (active instigators) – people who are seen as very dangerous. These persons might be under observation – but not permanently, and not all of them, due to limited police resources.
Politicians like the German Minister for Interior Affairs, Wolfgang Schäuble, who advocate more counter-measures, meet resistance by opposing politicians, most media, and the majority of the German population. There is reluctance to redress the balance between individual rights and collective security in favour of higher security.
In view of the terrorist attacks both in Germany and against Germans abroad, the lack of perception seems absurd. The terrorist attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005) have not been a wake-up call for Germany. The Germans in charge of homeland security should have noted what Peter R. Neumann wrote in his article in “Survival –The IISS quarterly, Vol 48, Number 2, Summer 2006 : “The jihadists are in a much better position than at any time since 2001,….,the attacks in Madrid and London indicate that the jihadists are both willing and capable of striking against their home countries”. He now could add Germany to the list.
A bizarre discussion in Germany is whether police should be allowed to check the internet connections of terrorist subjects based upon a judge’s permission. Insiders know that the internet is the medium best suited to global terrorism. There is some information that U.S. agencies supported German police forces with information gleaned from the internet. Until now, the known terrorists have represented imported terrorism. Now, Germany has to recognise home-grown Islamic extremists, too.
What facts are known so far about the home-grown terrorists and their actions?
Although comprehensive investigations continue, and will last for a while, there are some facts already known. In an exclusive statement for WSN, Jonathan S. Paris, an acknowledged London-based Islamic movement analyst, writes:
“According to the New York Sun, Sept 6, 2007, ‘The plan to bomb Americans in bars, clubs, airports, and American military bases in Germany, to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on America, was hatched by two German nationals who had converted to Islam and a Turkish Muslim. They are all in their 20s and members of Islamic Jihad Union, an Islamic group with roots in Uzbekistan that is closely linked to Al Qaeda.’ What this tells us is that home-grown Jihadis are linking up with Al Qaeda trainers in South and Central Asia to plot attacks in Europe. More like the 7/7 London bombings than 9/11, the plotters are indigenous – in this case two were Germans who had converted to Islam. It is important, however, not to overlook the important role of foreign professional training and inspiration provided by Al Qaeda. As in the Glasgow and London attempted bombings at the end of June 2007, sometimes called the “Doctors’ Plot”, many of the doctors were from the Middle East and South Asia and came to the UK radicalized. In the German plot, it appears that they may have sought out Al Qaeda help, and that they were already radicalized before they ever set foot in a terrorist training camp in South or Central Asia. Ominous developments indeed.”
The arrested “Trio” – the two converted Germans and one Turk – are without doubt the head of a wider network. They had been trained in Pakistani terrorist camps in 2006. They were under permanent observation for six months by about 300 police. They had collected 12 barrels containing about 730 kilograms of “Wasserstoffperoxid”(hydrogen peroxide), a basic material used to produce the high-explosive APEX(Acetonperodix). APEX is equivalent to about 80-100 percent of the better known TNT(Trinitrotoluol).
This amount of explosive would have had an impact twenty times greater than the bombs used in Madrid, which themselves killed 191 innocent people. The German police force, however, was clever enough to manipulate the stored explosive to make it ineffective.
The “Trio” and their partners had started recently to assemble car bombs. They are believed to have targeted facilities mainly used by Americans, for example the U.S. military airfield in Ramstein, the civil airport in Frankfurt, U.S. barracks, discos, and restaurants. Their aim was to maximise numbers of dead and wounded; another murderous mass attack like 9/11. In fact, September 11th 2007 might have been the date for execution.
The German police are hunting for 8-10 suspects in Germany and abroad. The “Trio” terrorist cell has been destroyed. But how many cells are hiding and preparing similar attacks in Germany and the rest of Europe? “We were close to a catastrophe... For Germany today is a good day for the security in our country” is the interim summary of Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Minister for Interior Affairs, whose repeated warnings have been proven by a bitter reality.
What should be done ?
Counter-measures should be developed and implemented with a cool head. There is no excuse for putting all Muslims, especially the converts, under general suspicion. “The problem is not with Islam, but with those extremists who misuse Islam,” Jonathan S. Paris, the London-based expert on Islam, states in an exclusive WSN interview coming out later this month. But is obvious, too, that the majority of non-violent Muslims living in Germany and Europe have to separate and distance themselves from the violent minority of 1 per cent.
There is no reason for short-sighted political actionism. We have to recognise that there is an “undeclared war” by Islamic terrorists against both our political system and our way of life; a way of life characterised by democracy, pluralism, freedom of speech and protection of dignity regardless of gender, religion, race, or social status. It is far too early to come to final conclusions. But we cannot wait.
Here are some WSN recommendations on how at least to contain terrorism:
- Make people aware that the terrorist threat resides in their neighbourhood; home-grown terrorism has become reality in Europe – not just in Germany
- Close all safe havens for terrorist planning, commuting and preparing terrorist attacks either in Afghanistan and Pakistan or on the internet
- Allow observation of internet traffic
- Enable police forces to observe converts who have close contacts to radical groups
- Expel from the country those Imams and Mullahs who preach hatred and violence
- Meet global terrorism with global counter-measures
- Improve the information exchange between the respective European, U.S. and partner countries’ agencies
- Convince the public that limited restrictions of individual rights are in their own interest
- Stop money transfers to suspects
- Improve sanctions against those countries which support terrorism
- Give so-called “moderate” Muslims a fair chance for participation in the daily life of their communities