German Security Service Reports Sharp Uptick in Islamist Radicalization

James Carstensen | February 26, 2017 | 10:40pm EST
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Germany's domestic BfV security agency has recorded an increase in radicalization among young people. (AP Photo, File)

Berlin ( – Germany’s intelligence officials have announced an uptick of hundreds of people in the “Islamic radical scene” in a matter of months, saying young people were largely becoming radicalized online.

The domestic security and intelligence agency (BfV) reported that the number of people who had been radicalized had risen from only about 100 in 2013 to around 1,600 now. It said the number had “jumped by several hundred” in a matter of months.

Of the 1,600 radicalized Islamists currently living in Germany, the BfV said some 570 were considered “dangerous” – capable of planning a terror attack.

The revelation came as the German cabinet approved sweeping proposals for stricter measures to combat the increased threat, such as broadening surveillance and ensuring faster deportations of rejected asylum-seekers.

Last week the government of Bavaria approved a ban on Islamic religious clothing such as full-face veils in public spaces. The state’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said such garb hindered public safety by obscuring communication.

The measures being taken and proposed are motivated by security concerns, but are to some degree also likely politically driven, as parties scramble to lure votes from the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant AfD ahead of federal election in September.

While the debate over security may be a key political issue during election year, part of the measured rise in radicalization may be attributed simply to increased awareness: The BfV

explained that part of the reason for the uptick was heavy press coverage of terror plots and an increasing ease in tracking down extremists online.

Still,  BfV president Hans-Georg Maassen warned last month about an increased danger of young people being radicalized online.

At a special Q&A session in Berlin in mid-January, Maassen said teenagers, and even younger children, were growing targets for Islamic radicals.

At least 10 minors were involved in potential terror plots in 2016.

Last February a 15-year-old girl from Hanover assaulted and wounded a policeman with a knife, after being prompted to commit the crime by instant messenger Salafist groups. The case reached court last month, and Hanover prosecutors have asked for a six year prison sentence for the minor.

Massen reiterated that groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) exploit such adolescents’ immaturity by seeking “narcissistic young people searching for black-and-white truths, underdogs who want to be top dogs and part of the social avant-garde, and people who rebel against their parents and the system.”

Haras Rafiq, CEO of the British anti-extremism NGO Quilliam said in an interview with The Cipher Brief, a digital service focusing on security, that propaganda from ISIS was effective because 95 percent of it is not “barbaric.”

Instead, he said, it comprises supportive messages telling targets: “Nobody in the West wants you. Come to the land that really wants you, the land of Muslims. Help us build the state, and we will accept you.”

Only a day after the increase in radicalization was announced, police arrested 26-year-old in a small town in Lower Saxony after bomb-making materials were found in his apartment. This was the second incident in the same area in just two weeks. A 22-year-old Nigerian and a 27-year-old Algerian were earlier questioned by police on suspicion of plotting extremist violence, Improvised weapons, ISIS flags and USB sticks with radical material stored on them were found in their possession. 

Meanwhile, an increase in violence targeting refugees and migrants has also been reported in Germany, with far-right radicals also using the Internet to spread their views.

This dual sided movement leads to what is known as “reciprocal radicalization,” occurring when Islamist organizations feed off of the views expressed by right-wing extremists and vice versa, escalating tensions and violence against each other.

A Funke media group report Sunday said there were more than 3,500 attacks on refugees last year. It said groups such as the AfD party and anti-Islam PEGIDA organization were effectively leveraging social media to create self-radicalizing “echo chambers.”

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