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Germany faces threats from extremists, Russia and China

June 18, 2024

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has warned of dangers to democracy amid rising domestic and external threats, including antisemitism and espionage.

 BfV head Thomas Haldenwang and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser
BfV head Thomas Haldenwang and Interior Minister Nancy FaeserImage: Axel Schmidt/REUTERS

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Tuesday that while Germany's democracy was strong, it was coming under considerable pressure.

Among the threats she cited were far-right elements in German society and increasing espionage activities on the part of Russia and China.

Her comments came as Germany's domestic intelligence agency BfV presented its report for 2023.

The report said 60,028 politically motivated offences had been registered in 2023, rising from 58,916 in 2022.
"Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, right-wing extremists have used the resulting economic upheaval... in political campaigns and calls for mobilisation," the report said.

Euro 2024 possible target

Faeser warned that Germany could see an attack on the scale of the Moscow concert hall attack in March this year by the Isis-Khorasan (Isis-K).

"Europe, and with it Germany, are in the crosshairs of jihadist organizations, in particular Isis and Isis-K," she added.

Thomas Haldenwang, head of the BfV also said such an attack was a possibility. He added that Isis-K was "certainly the most dangerous group." He said the organization had succeeded in "sending its supporters to western Europe, under cover of the refugee exodus from Ukraine."

Officials warned that the Euro 2024 football championship being hosted in Germany could be a potential target for the attack. Recently, the propaganda organ Isis-K posted a collage showing a militant with an assault rifle in a football stadium with the words, “shoot the last goal!”

In a study conducted by Hohenheim university, 20% of the respondents said they were likely to avoid public screenings of Euro 2024 events due to fear of an attack.

What the interior minister said about threats to Germany

Faeser called for active support of democratic ideals. "We must actively defend our democracy," she said.

She also said the general security situation "is and remains tense," while stressing that it was clear that "we will not let ourselves be intimidated."

She named the Islamist scene with its antisemitic tendencies as one of the risks for security.

Faeser also spoke about the ongoing debate in Germany about whether to ban the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has gained a considerable following, particularly in the former communist east.

She said she was against any ban on the party, despite its having been classified as a "suspected case of far-right extremism" by the BfV, a status that was recently confirmed as legitimate by the higher regional court for North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster.

Faeser said that the party should instead be confronted politically.

She, however, called the ruling by the Münster court a "success for the BfV."

The AfD is considered by some observers to have fueled racist crime in Germany with its harsh anti-immigration platform.

BfV President Thomas Haldenwang also spoke of a "very high level of threats," with the risk of extremist Islamist attacks rising particularly since the deadly raids by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7.

He said the danger came both from jihadi terrorists and radicalized lone wolves.

The conflict in Gaza had also acted "like an accelerant for antisemitism in Germany," he added.

Antisemitic crime rates soar amid Gaza war

According to the 2023 report, there was a record number of crimes with an extremist background in 2023, climbing by around 4,000 to 39,433.

The report said the number of crimes motivated by right-wing extremist ideologies increased by 22.4% in 2023, with a 13% increase of violent offenses in this category.

Left-wing extremist offenses were up 10.4%, while violent crimes fueled by leftist ideologies rose by a whole 20.8%.

But the largest increase in ideologically motivated crime was in those committed in connection with the Israel-Hamas war. 

Here, there was a rise in 2023 of 56.6% overall, with a 45% increase in violent offenses.

tj/rc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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