Berlin (dpa) – German police have significantly fewer dangerous Islamists on their radar than they did a few years ago. At first glance, this seems like good news.
On closer inspection, however, it appears that the number of ‘dangerous persons’ known to the police is falling. However, the danger of Islamist extremists in this country is not diminishing. The Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution added 28,715 people to its “Islamist potential” last year – a 2.5 percent increase from 2019.
In the field of politically motivated crime, a threat is defined as a person who, according to the police, can cause serious acts of violence or even terrorist attacks. According to a federal government response to a written question from FDP politician Benjamin Strasser, in July 564 people across Germany were classified as dangerous in terms of “religious ideology.” In July 2018, the police had 774 potentially dangerous Islamists in their sights.
One of the reasons for the decline is the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia in Syria, which may have had a sobering effect on some sympathizers. Another is deportations. However, not every foreign threat that is plotted is automatically dropped from the statistics. Certainly not if it is suspected that he could try to return to Germany. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, it is up to the federal and state working group Status of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Center, which deals with measures under the Aliens Act, whether and when an individual case is considered closed. decision of the respective federal state responsible for the case.
According to the ministry, 46 dangerous people left Germany last year who were either deported, “transferred” to their home country or “voluntarily left in a controlled manner”. So far this year (as of July 28) 35 Islamists from this category have been expelled from the country.
As the federal government announced in response to a minor request from AfD MP Anton Friesen, 388 of the alleged Islamists who had joined jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq have returned to Germany. Among them, police have identified 75 perpetrators, some of whom are in custody.
Radical Salafists meeting in mosques are not necessarily the main concern of security authorities at the moment. Other groups are just as problematic: battle-hardened returnees who joined terror groups in Iraq or Syria. Conspirators who, for fear of being observed by the police and the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution, meet only in private rooms or in virtual rooms. Radical Islamists who are about to be released from prison and who it is unclear whether they have renounced terrorist ideology. In addition, there are extremists who have either never been noticed or because of crimes with no political-religious background.
Psychological disorders of the perpetrators also played a role in some of the attacks in recent months. According to the assessment of security experts, these are not always clearly separable from the hatred of the so-called “infidels”, which is often read on the Internet. It is still unclear whether the Somali refugee’s religious beliefs played a role when he stabbed three women and injured other people in Würzburg on June 25. What is certain is that things have gone wrong in the 24-year-old’s life and he has mental health issues. Most recently, he lived in a homeless shelter. But not everyone who is sick and having a hard time stabs strangers as a result.
The 2020 Constitutional Protection Report lists three terrorist attacks in which an Islamist attitude is suspected as the motive. In two cases, there are psychological problems: there was the Iraqi who posted Islamic slogans on his Facebook page before he deliberately injured six people in a collision on the Berlin city highway in August. The murderer from Waldkraiburg in Bavaria, described by colleagues and neighbors as inconspicuous and friendly, is considered schizophrenic. In the spring of 2020, the Kurd damaged the shops of people of Turkish descent, carried out an arson attack and planned major bombings. He came across Islamist propaganda on the internet. In his mind he mixed hatred of Turkey with sympathy for IS.
The IS supporter, who was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison, was placed in a locked psychiatric ward during the trial. “Without the schizophrenia, the defendant’s attacks in Waldkraiburg are unthinkable,” said the chairman of the Higher Regional Court when the sentence was handed down two weeks ago. But they are “equally inconceivable without the Islamist-jihadist ideology”. This is “the foundation on which schizophrenia is saddled”.
In addition to the ‘threats’, the police are currently looking at 529 ‘relevant persons’ among the Islamists; this is stated in the government’s reply, which the German news agency has received. Their numbers had recently increased slightly. The group of ‘relevant people’ includes everyone who acts in the scene as a ‘leader’, as an ‘actor’ or as a logistics employee and supporter. In addition, there must be “objective evidence that the prognosis allows them to commit politically motivated crimes of significant importance”. This group also includes contact persons or persons accompanying a person at risk or a suspect.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior emphasizes that the figures are still “at a high level”. All existing prevention and deradicalisation programs should be checked by independent experts for their effectiveness and possible improvement potential, demands FDP domestic politician Strasser.
Abdullah A. came to Germany only as a minor, accompanied by the high expectations his parents had of him – which he could not live up to. The young Syrian stabbed a gay couple in Dresden in October 2020. One of the two men dies. Social workers and a psychologist who had previously met Abdullah A. during his juvenile detention described him as friendly and open.
It is not only providers of deradicalisation programs that have to constantly review their working methods. The instruments used by the police to estimate the probability that a particular extremist will use violence will also be adapted. So that misconceptions like in 2016 no longer occur. Because he was on drug porn sites on the internet, the police assumed that rejected asylum seeker Anis Amri had distanced himself from militant Salafism. The observation of the later Christmas market bomber was discontinued. In December 2016, he killed twelve people in Berlin.