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Germany

A Harder Line On Suspected Extremists?

If Angela Merkel becomes the next chancellor, Günther Beckstein will probably replace Otto Schilly as federal interior minister. That could mean Germany takes harsher measures against those deemed Islamic militants.

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Guenther Beckstein wants zero tolerance for extremists

It's the latest in a serious of no-nonsense actions from down south. Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein announced Thursday that he is expelling three more suspected Islamic radicals. This time, the three are members of a group called Tablighi Jamaat, which has about 450 members around Germany and whose followers want to establish an Islamic state, officials said. German security officials have previously described the group as peaceful but said it could become infiltrated by radicals.

Beckstein called them "missionaries" bent on spreading radical Islam including the idea of "jihad," or holy war, which encourages martyrdom through suicide attacks. He added that Bavaria would, with the expulsions, draw a clear and consistent line against "hate preachers" and suspected Islamic militants.

"We want to make it clear to Islamic extremists that the Bavarian government won't tolerate anyone who wants to replace our free and democratic order with an Islamic state," he said in a statement.

The three, two Bosnians and a Moroccan, have until Sept. 10 to leave or face deportation.

Bavarians Most Aggressive

Since a new immigration law took effect in January, making it easier and faster to expel suspected Islamic militants, Bavaria has been quick to make the most of it.

Edmund Stoiber

Stoiber wants more action

So far, the wealthy southern state has deported 16 people it suspected of militant activities, began proceedings on 26 more and moving on 10 more. That is more than any of the other 15 German states so far, officials said.

It comes as little surprise. A nationwide raid in January that led to the arrest of 22 suspected militants came after an investigation initiated by the Bavarians. Soon after, Beckstein said in a speech that more than 500 Islamic extremists in Germany "must be considered extremely dangerous" and that there are several thousand other fanatical Muslims in the country. His boss, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, has gone farther, saying that there are tens of thousands of radical Muslims in Germany, at least 4,000 of those he wants to deport for extremist activities.

Increasing Focus

Germany was forced to increase its efforts to clamp down on Islamic radicals after it was discovered that the September 11 hijackers planned their attacks while living as students in Hamburg.

Last year, Schilly said that the fight against Islamic militants was a top priority. As a result, the government established an anti-terror command headquarters in Berlin. On Jan. 1, the new immigration law which eases immigration for skilled workers also requires a detailed background check on every immigrant and eases the deportation of those designated "Islamic hate preachers."

Metin Kaplan zu lebenslanger Haft verurteilt

Metin Kaplan, the Caliph of Cologne, was extradited after a long process

Since then, the most recent extradition of an Islamic militant was of Metin Kaplan to Turkey for disseminating fundamentalist propaganda during his sermons. Kaplan had lived for decades in Cologne.

Deporting people is especially tricky for Germany in light of its Nazi legacy. At the same time, Germans worry about harboring extremists and populist sentiments by politicians such as Stoiber against Muslim immigrants suspected of radicalism appeal to many. Security experts applaud the stepped up efforts by the government to address extremism but still complain that too little has been done. That will probably change with a new government - Merkel has selected Beckstein to replace Schilly if she wins the election and his fervor for deporting suspected radicals could soon be felt on the federal level.

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