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The rapid rise of Germany’s homegrown Islamist movement is sparking fears that it will soon turn Germany into the next European focal point of Islamic terrorism. Two recently failed plots by German Islamists to launch chemical attacks have only heightened those concerns.
Last week German authorities arrested two Islamists on suspicion of planning a chemical attack on the German capital of Berlin. The two men, one a German of Lebanese descent and the other from Gaza, had been detained after purchasing large quantities of chemicals, including cooling elements and acids used in the agriculture industry.
In April 2011 German police had thwarted a similar planned chemical attack. In that case German police arrested three German Islamists in Dusseldorf, all of whom were suspected of having links to al-Qaeda. The discovery of the Dusseldorf terror cell had been gleaned from documents uncovered in the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s quarters in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Both incidents have served to underscore the growing determination of German Islamists to inflict upon Germany the same type of devastating terrorist attacks suffered by the United States, Britain and Spain.
That pessimistic view was on stark display when German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich recently claimed that 1,000 potential Islamist terrorists were residing in Germany. According to Friedrich, 128 of them were considered highly dangerous, with many having received training in terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In addition to Freidrich’s claim, recent reports from the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, cite an estimated 29 Islamist groups with over 34,000 members currently operating in Germany, groups whose overriding goal is the establishment of a Sharia-state in Germany.
The members of these Islamist groups are comprised mostly of young Muslim men under age 30, the majority of whom are unemployed and possess criminal records. According to a BfV spokesman, they are also prone to “rapid radicalization patterns” and possess a “high willingness to use force.”
Of course, membership in an Islamic organization isn’t the only path to would-be terrorist. There are a number of potential “lone wolf” terrorists wandering about Germany, those self-radicalized individuals who are unaffiliated with any organization.
In either case, both groups are all being encouraged to commit terrorist acts by an avalanche of online German-language Islamist propaganda. Most of the online propaganda is generated outside of Germany, with much of it originating from Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, the notorious home to both al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. In fact, many of these internet jihadists are German-speaking members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Central Asian militant group that actively recruits in Europe.
However, the internet still provides its local German jihadist voices. In June Harry Machura, a 19-year-old convert to Islam, was arrested for operating a German-language jihadist website called Islamic Hacker Union (IHU) that, among other things, sought the recruitment of suicide bombers. Machura, aka Isa Al Khattab, was also accused of supporting al-Qaeda linked terror groups, including the IMU and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
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