When did Islamic terrorism begin?

Islamist extremism and terror

Islamist-based terrorism has been preoccupying Germany at least since the devastating attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001. After the bombings in Madrid (2004) and London (2005), an "anti-terrorism file" was introduced in Germany in 2007: 38 German security authorities have since fed information into this database one to identify potential assassins early on. The attacks in Nice, Würzburg and Berlin triggered renewed discussion of Islamist-based terrorism.

How many militant Islamists are there in Germany?

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the number of so-called "threats" in the area of ​​Islamist terrorism amounts to 615 people. 138 "threats" are therefore in custody, 109 of them in Germany (as of October 2020). There are pending arrest warrants for 165 people classified as "dangerous". They are all located outside of Europe (as of September 2020). Source: Reply of the Federal Ministry of the Interior to a small question from the FDP parliamentary group, December 2020, pages 1ff.

The Federal Government defines a "threat" as a person who could commit "politically motivated crimes of considerable importance". This includes serious crimes within the meaning of Section 100a of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), such as the financing of terrorism or the preparation of an act of violence that is dangerous to the state.

According to the Federal Interior Ministry, there are 521 "relevant people" (as of October 2020). According to the definition of the ministry, these are people in the vicinity of dangerous persons who are "willing to provide logistical help or support in the preparation of a politically motivated crime of considerable importance". Of them, a total of 31 people were in custody as of October 31, 2020, 24 of them in Germany. SourceA response of the Federal Government to a small question from the FDP parliamentary group, December 2020, pages 1ff.

Chronicle of militant Islamist attacks

In the past few years there have been a number of militant Islamist attacks in Germany. The acts were predominantly committed by individual perpetrators or small groups. Some of the perpetrators had contacts with the terrorist militia "Islamic State".

The chronicle provides an overview of previous attacks in which people were injured or died. It does not claim to be complete.

  • On the evening of October 4, 2020, in Dresden two men attacked with a knife. One survives seriously injured, the other dies a little later. The suspect, who has lived in Germany since 2015, was identified by the Saxon State Criminal Police Office as an Islamist threat. The federal government defines a "threat" as a person who could commit "politically motivated crimes of considerable importance". This includes serious crimes within the meaning of Section 100a of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), such as the financing of terrorism or the preparation of a violent act that is dangerous to the state. guided. He was on trial in September 2018 for instructions on how to commit a serious criminal offense. He is also said to have tried to recruit supporters for the terrorist militia "Islamic State" in chats. The Federal Public Prosecutor General charged the suspect on February 10, 2021 with murder, attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm. Source Der Generalbundesanwalt (2021): "Charges brought against the attack on October 4, 2020 in Dresden"; Der Spiegel (2021): "The murderer who is afraid of hell"
  • On August 18, 2020, a man rammed his car on the Donut City highway motorcycles and cars. Six people are injured, three of them seriously. The General State Prosecutor's Office assumes a militant Islamist act. The police led the suspect, who came to Germany as an asylum seeker, as a contact person for an Islamist threat because they were both housed in the same dormitory. There are no indications of a personal connection. The alleged attacker is provisionally admitted to a psychiatric facility. On April 15, 2021, the trial against the accused began, among other things, accused of attempted murder in three cases. SourceTagesspiegel (2020): "'Bizarre, religious delusion' in attackers on the city highway" and (2021): "The accused's lawyer speaks of 'schizophrenic thrust' "; Tagesschau (2020): "Suspect comes to psychiatry"
  • On April 27, 2020, a 26-year-old man set off an arson attack on a Turkish shop inWaldkraiburg (Bavaria). Six people are injured. During the interrogation, the perpetrator claims to be a supporter of the terrorist militia "Islamic State". According to the investigation, he was planning further attacks, including on the Ditib Central Mosque in Cologne. The Federal Public Prosecutor is investigating the preparation of serious, state-endangering acts of violence. On March 2, 2021, the trial was opened before the Munich Higher Regional Court, the defendant confessed to the offenses.QuelleSpiegel (2020): "Federal Prosecutor to investigate the Waldkraiburg case"; Tagesspiegel (2020): "Alleged perpetrator of Waldkraiburg is an IS supporter"; FAZ (2021): "Defendant in the trial of attacks in Waldkraiburg confesses"
  • On July 28, 2017, a 26-year-old attacked several people with a knife in onehamburger Supermarket on. One man is killed and six other people are injured. The court classifies the attacker as a lone perpetrator who sympathized with the terrorist militia "Islamic State". He is sentenced to life imprisonment. QuelleTagesspiegel (2017): "Knife stabbers from a Hamburg supermarket charged with murder"; Welt (2018): "Life imprisonment for knife stabbers in Hamburg supermarket"

  • On December 19, 2016, an assassin raced into the Christmas market with a truckDonut Breitscheidplatz and kills twelve people. More than 50 people are injured, some seriously. The terrorist militia "Islamic State" claims the attack for itself. Four days after the attack, the Italian police shot the perpetrator in an exchange of fire near Milan. He was the German security authorities as a militant Islamist threat. The Federal Government understands a "threat" to mean people who could commit "politically motivated crimes of considerable importance". This includes serious crimes within the meaning of Section 100a of the Code of Criminal Procedure (StPO), such as the financing of terrorism or the preparation of a violent act that is dangerous to the state. known. Since March 2018, an investigative committee has been investigating what the federal and state security authorities have to do differently in order to prevent such an attack in the future QuelleTagesschau (2019): The status of processing, FAZ (2016): IS claims attack on Christmas market for itself
  • On the sidelines of a music festival inAnsbach (Bavaria) on July 24, 2016, an assassin set off an explosive device. He injured 15 people and killed himself. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the perpetrator who came to Germany as an asylum seeker was allegedly a sympathizer of the terrorist militia "Islamic State", which claimed the attack for itself Islamist background "

  • On July 18, 2016, a 17-year-old injured five people with an ax and a knife on a regional trainWurzburg (Bavaria). The police shoot the perpetrator on the run. The then Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière (CDU), classifies the act as "in the border area between rampage and terror". QuelleSZ (2016): "Federal Prosecutor investigates the attack in Würzburg"
  • On April 16, 2016, three young people used a self-made bomb to attack a temple belonging to the Sikh community ineat. Three people are injured. The perpetrators are sentenced to between six and seven years in prison. According to the judges, their motive was hatred of other religions. They also had contact with Salafist circles. QuelleZeit Online (2017): "Long prison sentences for attack on Sikh community", FAZ (2016): "Now the jihadists are on trial"
  • On February 26, 2016, an IS sympathizer attacked a federal police officerHanover with a knife and seriously injured him. Less than a year later, the higher regional court in Celle sentenced the 16-year-old to six years in juvenile prison. The court proves the connection to the terrorist organization "Islamic State" through chats on the young people's cell phones. QuelleZeit Online (2017): "16-year-olds sentenced to six years imprisonment for knife attack"
  • On March 2, 2011, a man shot dead two US soldiers atFrankfurter Airport. He seriously injured two others. According to the Federal Prosecutor's Office, it is a single perpetrator who radicalized himself on the Internet. The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court sentenced him to life imprisonment. The attack is considered to be the first Islamist-motivated terrorist attack in Germany. Source Federal Ministry of the Interior (2012): "Verfassungsschutzbericht 2012", Spiegel (2011): "Airport attacker confesses attack"

There are also planned attacks that were prevented by security authorities or failed for other reasons. Well-known examples are the bomb attack prevented by the so-called "Sauerland Group" in 2007 and the attempted "suitcase bomb attack" in 2006, in which self-made explosives did not explode for technical reasons. Quellebpb (2010): "Long prison sentences for 'Sauerland Group'", WDR ( 2008): "Chronology of Terror"

How many jihadists are leaving Germany?

The payment

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, more than 1,060 people have left Germany for Syria and Iraq since the middle of 2013 in order to take part in hostilities there on the part of the "Islamic State" and other terrorist organizations or to support them in other ways (status: March 2020). In about half of the cases there were concrete indications that the emigrants took part in fighting or otherwise supported terrorist groups. Source Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (2020): "Islamist-motivated travel movements in the direction of Syria / Iraq"

Fewer and fewer people have been traveling to Syria and Iraq since 2015. In 2019 there were hardly any departures. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution attributes this to the military defeat of IS last year. New departures are also only expected sporadically. Source Federal Ministry of the Interior (2020): Constitutional Protection Report 2019, pp. 189, 190

Who are outgoing "jihadists"?

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, three quarters of those who have left are male. The majority were younger than 30 years of age at the time of departure. Around a third of the people who have left the country are said to be in Germany again. And more than 250 people who left the country are said to have died in Syria / Iraq (as of March 2020). Source Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution: "Islamist-motivated travel movements in the direction of Syria / Iraq"

In an analysis from 2016, the Federal Criminal Police Office, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Hessian Information and Competence Center against Extremism examined the course of radicalization among "jihadists" who had left the country. The report summarizes the backgrounds of the radicalization of 784 people who have left or attempted to leave the country. The results:

  • 22 to 25-year-olds represent the largest age group of those who have left.
  • 79 percent of those who left were men.
  • 61 percent were born in Germany and 81 percent have a migration background.
  • The report also contains information on the schooling of those who left the country: 72 of the 784 people were known to have been school students before they left. A quarter of them attended grammar school, a quarter a technical / vocational school or a vocational college. In the case of 289 people, the authorities have information about their highest school leaving certificate, according to the report: 36 percent have obtained the Abitur or the technical college entrance qualification, 23 percent a secondary school leaving certificate or intermediate school leaving certificate and 27 percent a secondary school leaving certificate. Seven percent would have achieved a “other qualification” and seven percent no school-leaving qualification.
  • 134 people were converts.
  • Two thirds of those who left the country have already appeared to the police. QuelleBundeskriminalamt et al. (2016): "Analysis of the background and course of radicalization of the people who traveled from Germany to Syria or Iraq for Islamist motivation", pp. 12, 14, 16f.

How can the emigration of militant Islamists be prevented?

On September 12, 2014, the then Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière (CDU) banned the activities of the terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS) in Germany. Among other things, it is forbidden to take part in their actions or to wear their symbols.

The German government has also changed some laws to prevent Islamist fighters from leaving the country: a law that came into force in June 2015 allows militant Islamists to have their ID cards withdrawn in order to prevent them from leaving for war zones. The local registration or immigration authorities are responsible for the exit bans. The federal authorities have no figures on this. Source: Federal Ministry of the Interior (2015): Prevention of Travel by Radicalized Persons, Bundestag printed matter 19/15668, p. 14.

In addition, a reform of the Criminal Code, Paragraph 89 "Preparing for a serious state-endangering act of violence" was passed, according to which leaving the country in an area with terrorist training camps is made a punishable offense if it is intended to prepare for a serious act of state endangering violence. All forms of terrorist financing are also punishable.

The background for the changes is a UN resolution of September 2014, according to which the countries undertake to prevent the departure of militant Islamists. SourceStriminalgesetzbuch (2017): Paragraph 89 "Preparing a serious state-endangering act of violence", United Nations (2014): Resolution 2178 .

How many jihadists are returning to Germany?

So-called returnees are Islamists who travel from Europe to the war zones in Syria or Iraq and then stay in Germany again. In many cases they have gained experience in handling weapons abroad.

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, around a third of the 1,000 or so emigrants are back in Germany. According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, more than 110 of the people who have returned are known to have taken an active part in fighting in Syria or Iraq, or to have completed training to do so. It is assumed that people who have emigrated in the lower three-digit range want to leave Syria or Iraq or are currently in custody there. So far, imprisoned IS supporters have only been returned to Germany in individual cases. Source Federal Ministry of the Interior (2020): Verfassungsschutzbericht 2019, pp. 190, 191

An analysis commissioned by the Interior Ministers' Conference in October 2016 shows the presumed reasons for the return of the Islamists who have emigrated:

  • In ten percent of the cases, disillusion and frustration were decisive.
  • In another ten percent of the cases, pressure from the family or other people in the social environment is decisive.
  • In eight percent of the cases, the authorities suspect a tactically motivated return - to relax or to get equipment or money.
  • A quarter of the returnees cooperate with the security authorities. In 22 percent of the cases, the parents cooperate with the security authorities. QuelleBundeskriminalamt et al. (2016): "Analysis of the background and course of radicalization of the people who traveled from Germany to Syria or Iraq for Islamist motivation", p. 31

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the number of legally binding convictions of "returnees" is in the middle double-digit range. According to experts, treating "returnees" purely on the basis of security policy is not enough. Many would have had traumatic experiences in the crisis regions. Therefore, psychological support for "returnees" is necessary. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has created coordination offices in six federal states that support the authorities in dealing with "returnees" - particularly with a view to possible reintegration and de-radicalization measures. Source Federal Ministry of the Interior (2020): Verfassungsschutzbericht 2019, p. 190; Süddeutsche Zeitung (2014): What do we have to do? "Stay cool", bpb (2020): Radicalization Prevention Information Service.

How do militant Islamists recruit young people?

What strategies radical networks use to recruit new members is shown by an expertise of scientists from Goethe University Frankfurt for MEDIENDIENST. According to this, militant groups mostly address young people on a personal level. In long initial discussions, they ask about their everyday life, their worries at school and their conflicts with parents or friends.They offer young people an open ear and can be reached via Facebook and Skype at any time of the day or night. They also offer financial support - in the form of paid trips or cars that are made available when moving.

Many young people who join radical groups have experienced discrimination, the authors explain in the report. Militant Islamists build on this and confirm the young people's feeling that they are left behind and that society does not want them. In the networks, on the other hand - according to the promise of the groups - the young people are part of a community that needs, recognizes and values ​​them.

According to the researchers, other strategies come into play with girls and young women: They are advised to concentrate on their roles as mother and wife and to look for a partner at an early age. The groups stage the image of a happy relationship and thus take advantage of the girls' still tentative longing for a partnership. In addition, they clearly criticize the "Western" gender model: women in this country are mere goods of capitalism and are reduced to their sexuality. In their role as wife and mother, on the other hand - so the argumentation of the neo-Salafists - women received the recognition and appreciation they deserve. SourceMediendienst Integration (2017): Islamist radicalization in the Rhine-Main area, Mediendienst Integration (2020): Numbers and facts - Discrimination section.

On the debate on refugees and terrorism

Since the terror series in Paris in November 2015 at the latest, the question has also been discussed in Germany whether the risk of terrorism from refugees is increasing. High-ranking politicians such as the former Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière (CDU) have repeatedly warned against general suspicion and generalizations in this context. SourceStuttgarter Nachrichten (2016): "Federal Government: Do not place asylum seekers under general suspicion"

Four possible dangers related to refugees and militant Islamism are listed in the reports on the protection of the constitution:

  • The terrorist organization "Islamic State", which uses escape routes "to smuggle assassins into Europe".
  • Members, supporters and sympathizers of extremist and terrorist organizations "who enter Germany undercover".
  • Supporters of extremist organizations in Germany who try to "make contact with migrants".
  • "Migrants" who have radicalized themselves in Germany and joined Islamist groups. Source Federal Ministry of the Interior (2018): Verfassungsschutzbericht 2017, p. 167 f; Federal Ministry of the Interior (2020): Constitutional Protection Report 2019, p. 192.

What is there to prevent Islamist radicalization?

At the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), a central "Advice Center on Radicalization" with a hotline was created in 2012. Since the hotline was activated, 4,500 calls have been received there, as the BAMF announced at the request of the MEDIA SERVICE (as of January 2020). The advice center is part of a nationwide advice network that consists of 13 civil society and four state offers. The network has processed a total of around 2,700 cases. Source: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees at the request of MEDIENDIENSTES, Bundestag printed matter 19/13991, p. 13

There are also numerous prevention and de-radicalization programs nationwide. The "Radicalization Prevention Information" of the Federal Agency for Political Education offers a nationwide overview of contact points: Since 2015 it has been running a database in which both state and non-state initiatives are listed. Sourcebpb: Infodienst Radikalisierungsprävention, bpb: Nationwide overview of contact points.

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