10/06/2010 02:24 PM

The World from Berlin

'Germany Must Do More to Combat Homegrown Terrorism'

The deaths of up to eight German militants in a US drone strike in Pakistan on Monday is a further indication that Germany has emerged as a recruiting ground for Islamic extremists, say media commentators. Authorities need to step up efforts to counter the problem, they say.

Up to eight German Islamic militants were killed in a US drone strike in northwest Pakistan on Monday, according to unconfirmed reports that have thrown a spotlight on the rising number of young Islamists who are travelling from Germany to receive training in terrorist camps.

The deaths coincided with alerts issued by authorities in the US, Britain and other nations about possible terrorist attacks on targets in Europe. While the German government has insisted there is no cause for alarm, police and intelligence authorities say over 100 Muslims who grew up in Germany have travelled to terrorism training camps in the tribal border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years, and that many of them have returned.

The head of Germany's police federation, Konrad Freiberg, said there were some 40 militants living in Germany who had received explosives training. "An increasing number of people have traveled from Germany to the training camps there -- and many of them returned and are now living here," Mr Freiberg told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. "We have to expect attacks." He said the police didn't have the means to keep them under 24-hour surveillance.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere reiterated on Wednesday that Germany had no indications that any attack was imminent.

"No one should be in any doubt that Germany too is a target area for terrorists, but that on the other hand there is no concrete imminent attack plan that we are aware of," he told Deutschlandfunk radio.

"We do indeed have increased travel movements from Germany and back to Germany, we don't know all of them, we know many, and we have stopped many journeys. Some of them come back frustrated, some come back trained, whatever that means. We are looking at everything but there is no fever thermometer of danger."

German media commentators say Germany has an obligation to tackle the growing threat of home-grown terrorists and speculate that Monday's drone strike may have been aimed at foiling an attack on Europe that US intelligence officials have been warning about.

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"They are the nightmare of security authorities and the American intelligence services have been warning about them for a long time: Islamic terrorists who have grown up in Europe with European passports that give them access to all Western countries."

"Increasing numbers of radical people who grew up in Germany are joining the Taliban to get trained as fighters or explosives experts. After Britain, Germany now seems to be turning into one of the most important European recruiting nations for Islamic extremism."

"Often it is alienation from mainstream society that turns confused youths or young adults into dangerous ideologists."

"If what President Christian Wulff said is right, that Islam belongs to Germany just like Christianity and Judaism, then this small minority of German Islamic fanatics are a product of our society like the terrorism of the Rote Armee Fraktion was."

"And then Germany is particular is obliged to prevent this export of terror. The authorities must pay even closer attention to what is taught in some mosques and to locations where violent Islamists are recruited. And laws must be tightened so that dangerous people can be detained at an earlier stage. For example, at the moment, people can't be prosecuted just for having trained in a terror camp. Authorities also have to prove that the suspect went through the training with the aim of realizing concrete attack plans. But it's hard to imagine that a radical would go through training in a terror camp just to have better employment prospects in Germany as an explosives expert or a bodyguard."

Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Unexplained and uncontrolled drone attacks, which to the local population in the target areas amounts to nothing but terrorism from above, won't eradicate the danger of Islamist terror. Instead they will foment new hatred and create new militants. Such attacks undermine and weaken what they supposedly protect. The attacks that aren't officially confirmed by the US and are officially criticized but effectively tolerated or even welcomed by Pakistan's government and military, aren't covered by international law. If those fighting terrorism themselves resort to terrorism, they don't just lose their legal justification -- they also sacrifice their credibility."

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Apparently they (the people killed in the drone strike) were young Islamists from Hamburg who were recruited to join jihad terrorism. Their identity will probably never be established beyond any doubt because it is impossible to conduct an investigation at the site and because the intelligence information on which the drone strike was based probably won't be confirmed. The authorities are aware of the threat from German Islamists receiving training in the semi-autonomous tribal areas, and of the fact that they often return."

"What is new is that the CIA drones aren't just attacking the leadership of the jihadists. Was the aim to foil the preparation of an attack?"

David Crossland


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