Islamist extremists were advancing “with impunity” in rural areas of eastern Germany even before the ongoing influx of refugees into the country, Stephan Kramer, head of Thuringia’s regional Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, as cited by Die Welt.
Nowadays, the security environment in the east has deteriorated even more, Kramer maintains.
“We are getting tip-offs leading to terrorist suspects every day, up to 4 per day” he said, adding however that it is equally crucial to distinguish between actual suspects and false alarms.
He then mentioned Jaber al-Bakr, a Syrian refugee who was detained in October last year on suspicion of plotting to bomb an airport in Berlin. When police raided his flat in the eastern town of Chemnitz, some 1.5kg of home-made explosives, like those used in the fatal jihadist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels last March, were found.
“We have similar cases here in Thuringia, and I know from other colleagues in the eastern German states that it is the same there,” Kramer said without elaborating. The intelligence officer did not name any specific Islamist groups, only stressing that “this is a nationwide problem.”
Several days before Kramer’s interview, Gordian Meyer-Plath, head of Saxony’s domestic intelligence, alerted that Muslim Brotherhood – a transnational Sunni fundamentalist organization considered a terrorist group in Bahrain, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – is actively investing into real estate and are trying to “monopolize” mosques in the region to increase its influence.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood “have long been active in Saxony, although they were stealthy,” Meyer-Plath told Germany’s MDR broadcaster.
He warned, however, that “only now, when a [large] number of Muslims have come to Germany, do they see a chance to expand their network beyond some central structures and become interesting for the new Muslims in Saxony.”
Though the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany is “beyond jihad,” the security services would continue to monitor the Brotherhood’s activities in Saxony. BfV figures show that about 1,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood are active in Germany, as reported by MDR.
Last year, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maassen warned of the “worsening security situation in Germany”.
“For the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution it is clear: Islamic State wants to launch attacks against Germany and the German interests,” said Maassen, as cited by Bild, stressing that the agency receives at least four tip-offs on possible jihadi attacks in Germany on daily basis.
Maassen pointed out that the threat posed by Islamists in Europe should not be underestimated as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) “has established command structure and cells in Europe, which are planning attacks and carry them out.”
Out of some 800 German jihadists estimated to have join IS ranks in Syria, about 260 trained militants have returned back to Germany and pose an immense security challenge, according to the agency’s data.
Maassen admitted that jihadi fighters have been infiltrating Europe via migrant routes as it was in the case with four suspected IS fighters arrested in the refugee shelter in the Austrian city of Salzburg in December and two of the Paris attackers who had come to Europe via the Balkans.
The report by the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM), a special body which works in cooperation with security and intelligence agencies to assess the level of terrorist threat in Belgium, was leaked by De Standaard newspaper on Wednesday.
“An increasing number of mosques and Islamic centers in Belgium are controlled by the Wahhabism,” the document states
Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam promoted inside Saudi Arabia as well as through government programs abroad, has indirectly encouraged the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). It is sometimes considered the true Salafist movement, and calls for a return to the original “purity” of Islam.
The movement’s tenets include the supremacy of Sharia law, the idea of violent jihad, and takfirism, which encourages the killing of Muslims considered heretics for not following its interpretation of Islam.
The Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM) calls Wahhabism “one-dimensional Islam,” adding that it is “spreading in the Muslim world, including Muslim minorities in the West.” According to the report, many Sunni Muslims consider Wahhabi principles to be the norm these days.
Wahhabi supporters try “to turn away Muslims from West European values and standards,” which they perceive as being contrary to the teachings of the Koran, according to OCAM.
De Standaard, which read the report, says that Wahhabi imams regularly preach in Belgian mosques and many mosques are strictly Wahhabist, particularly in the cities of in Brussels, Antwerp, and Mechelen. There are even Wahhabi TV channels and online media, according to the report.
“Most Islamic bookshops and online stores in Belgium offer exclusively Wahabist, Salafist [content] printed in Arabic or in translation.”
Thus, “a moderate imam in his mosque” can do nothing about this “media violence,” the report concludes.
OCAM CEO Paul Van Tigchelt refused to comment on the leaked report to De Standaard.
Belgium has been on high alert since twin suicide bombings hit Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek metro station on last March. The station is near the buildings of the EU Commission and the Council of the European Union, as well as the headquarters of NATO.
Numerous raids have been conducted in the mainly Muslim Molenbeek area of Brussels, which is often referred to as an “Islamist hotspot.” Many of the suspects involved in the Paris attacks grew up and lived in Molenbeek, including terrorist mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the Abdeslam brothers, and Mohamed Abrini, who was also involved in the Brussels attacks.
In November, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders warned the EU of an increasing influx of returning fighters who could carry out terrorist attacks in Europe.