According to the Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, to date, there have been at least 340 attempts to recruit potential fighters by the Islamic State (IS) and other Islamist groups in Germany.
At least 340 attempts to recruit potential fighters by the Islamic State (IS) and other Islamist groups have been recorded by the Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. The recruiters operated largely in refugee centers and local mosques that remain mainly outside the government’s oversight.
“To date, there are more than 340 cases which are known to us,” the Die Welt information website quoted the words of head of the Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Hans-Georg Maassen. “But these are only the cases which we know. Probably, there could be more.”
Earlier, media reported that the IS agents have been trying to enter Europe inside flows of refugees or to approach asylum seekers, who already are in Germany, to recruit them.
According to Maassen, refugee hostels and centers are targets of the IS recruiters. “We are concerned that Salafists and other Islamists do recruit in asylum seeker camps,” he said.
“As we know, there are many young people among asylum seekers who belong to Sunni Islam. They come from a conservative Islamic environment and attend Arabic-speaking mosques every Friday,” Maassen said, adding that numerous Islamist and Salafist mosques operate in Germany.
According to Hans-Georg Maassen, the radicalization of young Muslims is one of the main problems, on which the BfV is focusing. “They pave the way for radicalization. This is dangerous and that is why we put many of them under [intelligence] watch,” he said.
The head of the BfV also noted that the Islamic community in Germany is heterogeneous and exempt from government oversight. “In Germany, the Arabic-speaking mosque landscape is not organized. From the state’s perspective, there are relatively few opportunities to influence [them].”
The four assaults in quick succession, conducted by young Muslims with radical Islamist sympathies, shocked Germany, which until quite recently had seen no large-scale terrorist attacks.
“Therefore, the lesson is – we must not concentrate on IS only, which apparently sends terrorist commandos to Europe,” Maassen said. “There could be lone wolf attackers who are radicalizing on their own.”
However, the head of the BfV also noted that tracking potential terrorist suspects and their communications is not an easy task. “A fundamental problem is that we don’t know who chats with whom,” he said, citing multiple ‘legal obstacles’ to the monitoring of telephone conversations and emails. Maassen pointed out that another part of this problem is encryption, which has become increasingly popular with online messengers such as WhatsApp.
“Here we need a society which watches for something unusual in a person – for instance, when someone has a smartphone with an IS flag installed as a screensaver,” he concluded.