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Germany

German Intelligence Warns of High Terror Threat in Election Year

Germany faces an increased risk of Islamist terror attacks ahead of national elections in September, security chiefs warned Saturday.

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Germany could be in the crosshairs of Islamist terrorists in this election year

The head of the domestic intelligence agency, Heinz Fromm, said the probability of a terror attack is especially high, in an interview with the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

In Germany's general election set for September 27, the country's troop presence in Afghanistan, opposed by the majority of German citizens, is likely to be high on the agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, presiding over a coalition government between her conservative CDU party and the SPD on the left, has been instrumental in committing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

However the country's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is the SPD's election candidate, is critical of further troop deployment.

President of the federal police agency (BKA) Joerg Ziercke warned that terrorists could attempt to influence the election outcome, similar to the Madrid train bomb-attacks ahead of the Spanish elections in 2004.

"We are seeing clear parallels to the situation in Spain," Zierke said in an interview with weekly news magazine Focus.

Parallels with Spanish attack

Debris lies next to a destroyed train car after a bomb, exploded in the Atocha railway station in Madrid Thursday March 11, 2004

Spain suffered Europe's worst terror attack in 2004

Ahead of Spain's 2004 elections, attacks on Madrid's commuter trains, in which 191 people died, achieved their aim of bringing about a change of government and a withdrawal of Spanish troops from the US-led coalition in Iraq.

BKA-chief Zierke said that radical converts to Islam of German origin were especially dangerous. "They know the German infrastructure, are socially integrated and hardly stand out because of their appearance."

In the past weeks at least two videos have surfaced in which threats have been issued in German against countries with a military presence in Afghanistan.

One video showed six masked men speaking in several languages, one of which was German, according to the German television channel ARD.

"This year, we've got a few surprise parcels for the occupying powers, since the allies of the occupying powers must always expect our attacks," the German speaker said.

Broadcasts carry threats to Germany

A screenshot of an Islamist video which directly threatened attacks on Germany

Germany has become increasingly referred to in Islamist videos

In an earlier video, a man identified as a Moroccan-born German national demanded that Germany withdraw its troops serving with NATO in Afghanistan.

In light of these internet postings, Fromm said, "the most recent video messages clearly show that Germany and German interests abroad are under threat."

The intelligence chief said the videos show, "that attacks against our country are being prepared."

At present, around 3000 German troops are stationed in Afghanistan, as part of the country's NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Their role is restricted to peacekeeping, rebuilding and training missions, and they are banned from participating in the heavy fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

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