A new report from the Jamestown Foundation says Germany has jumped to the top of al Qaeda's hit list because of its ongoing support for the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. (Norway, as reported yesterday, has the same problem.)
Germany currently has 3,200 troops deployed in Afghanistan with another 200 on the way. By mandate of Parliament, German troop strength in Afghanistan cannot pass 3,500.
This presence, however, has made Germany a target for al Qaeda and jihadist self-starters looking to attach themselves to al Qaeda's global jihad.
An increasing number of messages on jihadi websites call for an attack on German soil. Simultaneously, there seems to be a “new quality” in the Islamic propaganda, in the words of Heinz Fromm, president of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Messages and videos, including specific instructions for the building of bombs, are now directly posted to websites in German and in Arabic with German subtitles. According to Fromm, this strengthening of al-Qaeda’s internet offensive has been observed for the last year (Die Welt, February 8).
Much like other European countries, especially Great Britain, a miniscule minority of German Muslims have reportedly taken "jihadi trips" to Pakistan to receive terrorist training. Recent research also suggests German Muslims are radicalizing at a steady rate. The study, commissioned by the German Interior Ministry, interviewed 1,750 German Muslims and found 40 percent held a "fundamentalist orientation," which they defined as "strongly religious worldviews and moral values." The authors also found 14 percent have "anti-democratic tendencies" and 6 percent have "violent tendencies," or belief violence in the defense of Islam is legitimate.
In response to the homegrown jihadist threat, Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaüble wants to increase the power of the intelligence community, the police, and the military. According to the Jamestown Foundation:
Some of his ideas include preventive detentions of suspects, the possibility of deploying Bundeswehr (national armed forces) troops within the country when necessary, targeted assassinations and the clandestine seizure of private computer data via “Trojan Horse” programs (Spiegel Online, July 9, 2007).
However, Germany's political community and its media are cool to Schaüble's ideas as the fear of backsliding into dictatorship is very much still apart of Germany's consciousness.