Fears over Ger­many’s grow­ing jihadist scene

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ber­lin’s Christ­mas mar­ket truck ram­page was the deadly jihadist at­tack Ger­many had long feared, as se­cu­rity ser­vices have warned of the growth of a shad­owy Is­lamist scene. Rarely a week has gone by in past years with­out the ar­rest of a rad­i­cal preacher, an ex­trem­ist back­ing the Is­lamic State or other ex­trem­ist groups with money, arms or pro­pa­ganda, or of a fighter re­turn­ing from Syria or Iraq.

Ger­many’s do­mes­tic se­cu­rity chief, Hans-Ge­org Maassen, has likened the rise in IS fol­low­ers to a dan­ger­ous “youth sub­cul­ture”. He said that while it has drawn some home-grown con­verts and many fe­male re­cruits, the main tar­get group has shared the “four Ms” pro­file-male, Mus­lim, with a mi­grant back­ground and a his­tory of per­sonal mis­ad­ven­ture.

It is a pro­file that fits 24-year-old Tu­nisian Anis Amri, the Ber­lin at­tack sus­pect shot dead Fri­day by an Ital­ian po­lice of­fi­cer in Mi­lan. An il­le­gal mi­grant, drug dealer and ex-con­vict, he is seen in a video mes­sage pledg­ing allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr AlBagh­dadi be­fore he mowed a stolen truck through a Christ­mas mar­ket in an at­tack that left 12 dead. It was the dead­li­est IS as­sault on Ger­man soil, but the coun­try has al­ready pro­duced its share of ex­trem­ist killers. Per­haps Ger­many’s most no­to­ri­ous IS fighter is De­nis Cus­pert, a Ger­man-Ghana­ian for­mer Ber­lin rap­per known as Deso Dogg, who has ap­peared in an IS video with a man’s sev­ered head.

Hate preach­ers

In Ger­many, a lead­ing al­leged IS re­cruiter is Iraqi Ah­mad Ab­du­laziz Ab­dul­lah A, also known as Abu Walaa or “the face­less preacher” for pro­pa­ganda videos that showed him from be­hind. Po­lice in Novem­ber ar­rested him and four oth­ers in Hildesheim-a north­ern town with a rep­u­ta­tion as an Is­lamist bas­tion, along with the cap­i­tal and the in­dus­trial re­gion of North Rhine-West­phalia.

Af­ter Mon­day’s Ber­lin at­tack, it emerged that Amri had also been in con­tact with the “hate preacher”, one of the lead­ing voices of a move­ment that has grown sharply in re­cent years. The do­mes­tic se­cu­rity ser­vice es­ti­mates that the num­ber of rad­i­cal Is­lamists in Ger­many rose above 9,000 this year, from some 3,800 in 2011.

About 550 are con­sid­ered ca­pa­ble of a vi­o­lent at­tack-a list that in­cluded Amri. This year, Ger­many has been shocked by a spate of at­tacks com­mit­ted by young fol­low­ers-in­clud­ing some who were among the more than one mil­lion mi­grants and refugees who have ar­rived in the past two years. In Fe­bru­ary, 15year-old Ger­man-Moroc­can girl Safia S, pre­vi­ously known for singing re­li­gious songs on YouTube, stabbed a po­lice of­fi­cer in the neck with a kitchen knife, wound­ing him badly.

In April, three 16-year-olds set off a bomb in Essen that left three peo­ple in­jured at a Sikh com­mu­nity wed­ding. In July, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee wounded five peo­ple in an axe ram­page on a train be­fore po­lice shot him dead. Days later a 27-year-old re­jected Syr­ian asylum seeker blew him­self up out­side a mu­sic fes­ti­val, wound­ing 15 peo­ple. Both July at­tacks were claimed by IS. The youngest plot­ter known so far is a 12-year-old Ger­man-Iraqi boy who tried to set off a home-made nail­bomb in Lud­wigshafen this month.

‘Pow­er­less’ par­ents

Peter Neu­mann, head of the In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for the Study of Rad­i­cal­iza­tion at King’s Col­lege, Lon­don, said that for some very marginal­ized and trou­bled youths, IS rep­re­sents “a kind of protest ide­ol­ogy, a coun­ter­cul­ture”. Many small-time crim­i­nals are drawn to-and share their skills with-the IS “su­per gang”, he told Ber­lin public ra­dio, in the be­lief that it prom­ises “might, weapons, adrenaline, ad­ven­ture... and on top of that, sal­va­tion.”

The par­ent of one of the youths in the Sikh temple at­tack, Turkish-born Ne­r­i­man Yama, wrote about her son’s rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the book “My Son, the Salafist”, re­fer­ring to a fun­da­men­tal­ist branch of Is­lam. In it she de­scribes how she watched her son Yusuf start watch­ing Ara­bic preach­ers on­line at age 14, speak in verses, marry a teenage girl wear­ing a burqa, and even­tu­ally turn to vi­o­lent ji­hadism. She said that she sought help from mosques, po­lice and se­cu­rity ser­vices, even get­ting Yusuf en­rolled in an of­fi­cial de-rad­i­cal­iza­tion pro­gram, but could not pre­vent the at­tack. “As par­ents, we were pow­er­less,” Yama told jour­nal­ists. “The other side was stronger than us.” —AFP

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