The United States and its allies did not achieve all of their objectives after 9/11, but “defeated terrorism,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as her own intelligence services warned of thousands of Islamists in the country.
“We must now recognize that although we have succeeded in defeating terrorism, which endangers our security, at present we have not achieved all of our objectives,” he added. Merkel said on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The Chancellor then suggested focusing on safeguarding those few achievements, including educating girls in Afghanistan while admitting “it won’t be easy with the Taliban” in power. Merkel also said bringing people in need of protection to Germany should be one of the country’s top priorities, as it was something Berlin thought it had. “A moral obligation to do”.
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Yet it seems that not all German officials would agree with their chancellor that the war on terror was so successful. The head of the national internal security service, the BfV, responsible for combating the terrorist threat in particular, painted a much darker picture.
German Domestic Intelligence has classified some 2,000 Islamists living in the country as “Particularly dangerous” BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang told the Tagesspeiegel daily in an interview published earlier on Saturday.
“These are all that we, as an intelligence service, believe we can potentially be involved in terrorist activity to the point of committing [terrorist] attacks “, Haldenwang said.
German Federal Criminal Police reported 551 existing Islamist “threats” and 536 people who could potentially be supporters of terrorists, according to German media. Haldenwang explained that his agency’s number is higher because some of the people on the list have no criminal records and are therefore likely unknown to the criminal police.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could be used by these extremist groups to launch a “Propaganda offensive” and launch a recruitment drive, warns Haldenwang, adding that the development could be described as a victory for Islamists around the world.
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German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the country’s security services had successfully thwarted 23 terrorist attacks since 2000. The minister believes, however, that the danger is far from over.
“We prevented terrorist attacks, but the risk of an attack still exists today”, he told German media group Funke on the 20th anniversary of September 11. Seehofer then asked the BfV to be allowed secret access to computers, smartphones and other computing devices so that they could study their content in order to better prevent terrorist threats.
This provision was removed from a controversial amendment to the Federal Law on the Protection of the Constitution, which granted the security service more extensive powers in the field of telecommunications surveillance. Passed by the German parliament in June, the amendment allowed BfV to monitor encrypted messages sent via WhatsApp, for example, but only in strictly regulated individual cases.
However, Seehofer hopes that the next government, which will take office following the parliamentary elections next September, will continue the work it has started.
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