‘Beef up anti-terror security’
German minister: unify police powers
GERMANY must grant federal police more powers to counter threats like terrorism and cyber attacks, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said, after a failed asylum seeker rammed a truck into a Christmas market and killed 12 people.
Referring to the December 19 attack, De Maiziere said Germany lacks laws that other countries have, and police and intelligence bodies are too fragmented. “Our state must be better prepared than it has been,” he said at the start of an election year in which immigration and security will top the political agenda.
“Central government and the states must work together on national security,” he wrote in a full-page article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
Each of the 16 federal states has its own police force and intelligence agency. Now, the country’s worst attack in more than 35 years has reignited debate about how best to prevent information from falling between the cracks.
After the Christmas market attack, it emerged that Tunisian suspect Anis Amri had spent nearly a year and a half in Germany, using various names and moving between different parts of the country despite being identified as a security threat. For several days he evaded an intensive search, crossing three international borders before being shot dead in Italy.
De Maiziere said the federal police agency should lead national manhunts, and a discussion about centralising intelligence agencies was needed.
Better co-ordination was also required to monitor several hundred individuals believed to pose a threat, including many who have returned from Syria and Iraq.
Germans should not fear installing more video cameras in public places to help prevent and solve crime, he said. Germans have an aversion to such measures after mass snooping under the communist East German Stasi and the Nazis.
He also said failed asylum seekers, viewed as a danger, should be held until they can be deported.
Amri, whose attack was claimed by Islamic State, was due to be sent home after his asylum application was rejected but Tunisia refused to take him because of missing papers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term this year, is under growing pressure for allowing more than 1million migrants into Germany over the past two years, which critics say has made the country more vulnerable to an attack.
In the latest twist in a sensitive national debate, police in Cologne are coming under fire for alleged racial profiling and the coining of a new acronym, Nafri, meaning North African Repeat Offenders.
Germany is also concerned that it could be open to a cyber attack in the months leading to the election. The website of the federal police was hacked one day after the Christmas market attack.
In this photo released by the Spanish Guardia Civil on Tuesday, a 19-year-old migrant from Gabon is pictured in a suitcase in Ceuta, Spain. Border guards recently detained two Moroccans for attempting to smuggle migrants concealed in a suitcase and in a car as they crossed the border into Ceuta, Spain’s enclave in North Africa. Customs officials found the 19-year-old migrant from Gabon hidden in a suitcase pushed on a trolley by a woman who tried to cross the land border from Morocco on December 30. PICTURE: AP