Germany is on the alert after recent al Qaeda threatsImage: AP
DW staff (sp)
May 22, 2008
Germany's top security official said in an interview that confirmation of Germany's first suicide bomber blowing himself up in Afghanistan and recent al Qaeda threats represent a real and growing terrorism danger.
In a wide-ranging interview with news agency Reuters, Joerg Ziercke, head of Germany's Federal Crime Office (BKA), warned of a rising risk of terrorism on German soil carried out by homegrown militants.
"We now have the first suicide attacker who grew up in Germany and committed such an act abroad," Ziercke told Reuters in the interview published on Thursday, May 22. "We must assume that something like that can also happen over here, although we have no concrete evidence."
Ziercke said DNA analysis had confirmed that a man who blew himself up in a terrorist attack on a compound used by NATO and Afghan forces, which killed several people in March this year, was a German national.
The 28-year-old, identified as Cuneyt Ciftci, was a Turk who grew up in Bavaria.
Referring to a video circulated on the Internet of Ciftci's grinning face, Ziercke said the aim of the propaganda was to radicalize Muslims in Germany.
"The goal of the video is to show him as an example, so that others follow," Ziercke said. "Unfortunately, there appears to be a receptive audience."
Al Qaeda eyeing Islamists in the West
Germany's top security official said a growing number of Islamists from Germany had visited terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past few years.
"We know that since 2001 between 25 and 30 [people from Germany] were in the camps and about 15 of those are believed to be dangerous," he said. "Many of them have come back to Germany and are being watched."
Earlier this month, a report by Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution said Islamist terrorists are increasingly setting their sights on Germany and view the country as an "operational area."
Germany's growing military presence in Afghanistan and its role in training Iraqi security forces had made it a target for Islamic terrorists, the report pointed out.
Ziercke said al Qaeda was seeking to recruit Islamists living in the West.
"Al Qaeda's intention is clear," Ziercke continued. "They want to win over those who, through their looks and knowledge of the structures, find it easier to prepare attacks within our society. That's the current strategy."
He underlined the growing role played by the Internet in al Qaeda's recruitment plans.
"Anyone who wants to visit a training camp in Afghanistan has to bring their own laptop so they can be shown how to communicate in code."
Germany a target
Ziercke called "worrying" a recent slew of al Qaeda threats in the first five months of this year.
The terror group led by Bin Laden released five tapes in the past six months, nearly as many as in the last three years.
"We interpret this as a clear sign that al Qaeda wants to show itself confident and strong and that it thinks it's able to prepare attacks. This worries us, although there is no concrete evidence of attacks at the moment," Ziercke said.
But the security official said Germany had been explicitly mentioned in 14 al Qaeda statements since 2001.
"We're highly attentive. We've been mentioned extensively in statements by [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden and [al Qaeda's No. 2 Ayman] al-Zawahri. Since 2001, there have been 14 statements mentioning Germany," he said. "The recent comments show that Germany and other European countries are targets."
Unlike Spain or Britain, Germany has so far escaped a major terrorism attack.
Last year, authorities arrested three men in Sauerland, western Germany, for planning attacks against US installations on German soil.