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Suspected 'IS' scout for potential Berlin attack goes on trial

A Syrian teenager is accused of scoping potential landmark targets in the German capital on behalf of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group. Shaas Al-M. arrived in Germany during 2015's migrant influx.

The trial of a 19-year-old Syrian national began in a Berlin court Wednesday, marking the first hearing of its kind against a deployed IS militant rather than a "lone wolf" or radicalized assailant.

Shaas Al-M. arrived in Germany as a refugee in August 2015 during the peak of a mass influx of migrants fleeing Syria, Iraq and other crisis-torn countries.

Federal prosecutors allege that the Syrian teenager fought with IS in his home country for two years before arriving in Germany. He stands accused of being deployed by the Islamist militant group to identify potential targets for a terrorist attack in Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building.

He has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest on March 22.

Charges include membership in a foreign terrorist organization - a charge, which carries up to 10 years in prison - and military weapons law violations.

Al M. will stand trial in a special state security court in Berlin, with the court having set 25 hearings through April.

Deployed by IS

In a statement issued by the court, Al M. is believed to have participated in a number of IS militia operations in Syria, handled a Kalashnikov machine gun and provided other militants with food and goods.

Since arriving in Germany, Al M. remained in "close contact" with IS militants and often traveled to the German capital to scope potential attack sites, according to federal prosecutors.

He allegedly "passed the information about the potential attack targets onto his contacts in IS," the court said ina statement on its website.

The defendant also stands accused of arranging to "send at least one person to Syria as a fighter and offered his services as a contact person for potential attackers in Germany," according to the court.

Watch video 01:53

Germany's homegrown terrorists

Germany on edge

Wednesday's trial comes just two weeks after an IS-affiliated terrorist plowed a truck through a Christmas market in Berlin's Breitscheidplatz, killing 12 and injuring around 50 people.

The attack marked the worst IS-claimed attack in Germany last year , although it was far from the only one. A spate of attacks in July saw a 17-year-old Afghan refugee wound five people in an axe attack on board a train in Würzberg. Days later a 27-year-old Syrian blew himself up outside a music festival in Ansbach, wounding 15 people.

Police also allegedly foiled two major attempted attacks, one in Düsseldorf in June and another on a Berlin airport in October.

Germany's growing right-wing populist movement blame the attacks on Chancellor Angela Merkel's "open door" refugee policy, which saw almost 900,000 asylum seekers enter the country in 2015. While some of the assailants were migrants and refugees, others were radicalized in Germany.

German internal security forces estimate that more than 9,000 radical extremists currently reside in the country, up from 3,800 in 2011. Around 550 of them are considered dangerous and capable of carrying out a violent attack.

Germany also suspects that a further 400 German jihadists are currently in Syria and Iraq, planning to carry out attacks upon returning home.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

dm/kms (AFP, Berliner Strafgerichte)

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