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New targets

January 19, 2010

This year two million euros are to be spent on fighting far-left and Islamic extremism. The money is in addition to what is regularly allocated to combat right-wing radicalism.

Police and left-wing radicals clash in Hamburg
Police and left-wing radicals clash in HamburgImage: picture-alliance/dpa

According to the latest statistics from Germany's Federal Crime Office, the number of acts of violence perpetrated by far-left groupings in 2009 went up by almost 50 percent over the previous year.

Left-wing anarchist groups, which have been active particularly in Berlin and Hamburg, have recruited new members. Counter-intelligence agencies put the current total number of anarchists in Germany at around 6,600.

"What we've witnessed in Berlin and other big German cities is that young people's readiness to use violence has increased dramatically", said Claudia Schmid from Berlin's counter-intelligence department. "We've seen that, since last year's May Day riots and the 2009 NATO summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, the level of brutality in the left-wing scene has gone up steadily", she added

Trying to keep the balance

While the number of violent left-wing anarchists is on the rise, the number of radical Muslims here is reported to have remained stable at over 30,000.

In their coalition treaty, Germany's governing partners – the conservatives led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the pro-business Liberal Free Democrats – vow to fight extremism in all its forms.

Aiman Mazyek
Muslims should be seen as partners, not enemies, says Aiman MazyekImage: picture-alliance/dpa

They've left no doubt that, while they don't underestimate the danger stemming from the radicalized far right and neo-Nazis in particular, they will also not turn a blind eye to extremism coming from other parts of the political spectrum.

As in previous years, the ministry for family and youth has allocated 24 million euros ($34.3 million) for special programs to fight right-wing radicalism.

But what's new this year is that two million euros on top of that is being allocated to combat Islamist fundamentalism and left-wing extremism within Germany.

Calls for more financial resources in these areas have come not only from close observers of the scene or politicians. They have also been echoed by moderate Muslim leaders here who hope that the state will see Muslim organizations as partners in the process of achieving what they say is a joint objective.

"We need well-trained and experienced Muslims, who are in a position to identify those among us who are drifting toward terrorism,“ said the secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek. "So far, not enough resources have gone towards preventive work, but the effort is one that’s worth making," he added.

It is not yet clear what exactly the additional two million euros will be spent on this year.

Face of Heinz Fromm with a thoughful expression
Counter-intelligence chief Fromm is worried about the increase in violent crimesImage: picture-alliance/ ZB

Opinions divided over exit program proposals

Some conservative Bavarian lawmakers have suggested that exit programs should be developed for young people wanting to turn their backs on radical Islamism or far left anarchism, similar to exit programs already in place for former far-right activists.

But senior intelligence officials are not convinced that this would be effective..

"Left-wing anarchists are highly unlikely to respond to any sort of contact by authorities. It seems easier in the case of radicalized far-right extremists who want to opt out", says the president of Germany's Federal Counter-Intelligence Agency, Heinz Fromm.

hg /KNA/dpa

Editor: Susan Houlton