Radical Islamic Terrorism Still a Threat in Germany | Current Affairs | DW | 06.09.2002
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Current Affairs

Radical Islamic Terrorism Still a Threat in Germany

The past year has been an illuminating one for German anti-terrorism investigators. But much work remains and the country’s top terrorism officials warn more attacks might be in store.

Anti-terrorism officials warn of new attacks - possibly on German soil

Anti-terrorism officials warn of new attacks - possibly on German soil

September 11 could become an opportunity for radical Islamic groups to launch new attacks on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history, Germany’s top anti-terrorism officials said this week.

In an interview with Reuters, Manfred Klink, who headed the German investigation into the Sept. 11 plot, said that Germany’s anti-terrorism investigators had concluded attacks were currently in the planning stage.

"We believe that both al Qaeda and non-aligned groups are involved in planning such attacks, although we have no firm evidence of anything specific planned for September 11," Klink told Reuters this week. "I don't know if al Qaeda attaches much importance to anniversaries but we will be on alert on this day as others on the same wavelength as al Qaeda, without necessarily being members, may find September 11 a good opportunity to strike."

Shaken by the realization that the Sept. 11 attacks may have been planned in Hamburg, Germany’s government has initiated a vigorous anti-terror campaign. In two “security packages” passed by the German parliament, law enforcement saw increases in their budgets and personnel.

The government also passed a law banning religious organizations that push extremist views, such as the Cologne-based Caliph State. The Caliph State’s leader Metin Kaplan is currently serving a prison term for calling for the death of a competitor and might be deported to Turkey to face trial there.

70 Investigations, only 1 indictment

Over the past year, German investigators have launched 70 investigations into Islamic terrorist activity within the country, 50 of those ordered by Germany’s Federal Prosecutor, according to Ulrich Kersten, the head of Germany’s Federal Crime Office, the Bundeskriminalamt, (BKA) who spoke with DW-RADIO.

Though the investigations have resulted in only one indictment, that last week of Hamburg student and suspected Mohammed Atta accomplice Mounir El Motassadeq, they have shed new light into a murky area, he said.

“We have … a significantly better view into the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist network,” he said in the interview.

Kersten said that the Federal Crime Agency suspected that Islamic fundamentalists were active even before the attacks. The arrest of a suspected Osama bin Laden finance chief in Munich in 1998 and the break-up of a Frankfurt cell planning attacks on the Strasbourg Christmas market in 2000, made those suspicions more clear.

“What we didn’t anticipate are attacks of this proportion,” Kersten said.

Tightening cooperation on all levels

Since then, the improvement between law enforcement on the national, state and local level has improved significantly, Kersten said. Cooperation with fellow European and American investigators is getting better as well.

“I don’t want to say that we’ve already reached the optimum level in cooperation,” he said. “But if I look back two or three years, at the international cooperation back then as compared to right now, I think we’ve made a major step forward and I don’t see any other alternative.”

Still, any expectations that terrorist activity in Germany has been stopped once and for all are misleading. As evidence, investigators point to the April attack on a synagogue in Tunisia that killed 21, including 14 German tourists.

“We have to figure that at any moment, American, Israeli, Jewish and maybe also British institutions anywhere in the world could be attacked," said Kersten. "Also in Germany.”