Germany gives new warning of Al-Qaeda threat

2nd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that the threat had reached a new level as Germany prepares for general elections due in September.

Berlin -- German security officials issued new warnings Saturday of a heightened threat of attack by Al-Qaeda-linked groups over the next few months.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble told the weekly Bild am Sonntag that the threat had reached a new level as Germany prepares for general elections due in September.

"We are taking the threat seriously," he said, adding: "We are not allowing ourselves to be intimidated and Germany will not give in to blackmail."

Meanwhile, the head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the internal security agency, told the Hamburger Abendblatt that the risk was "very high".

Videos recently posted on the Internet by Islamist extremists indicate that "attacks on our country are being prepared," Heinz Fromm said, calling on Muslims in Germany to help track down suspects.

The head of the criminal police, Joerg Ziecke, drew a parallel with Spain in 2004, when deadly attacks were mounted in an election year to pressure Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Ziecke told the weekly Focus that "the latest video messages show clearly that Germany and German interests abroad are threatened."

He warned against young Muslims of German origin who had been radicalised.

"They know German society, are well integrated and pass unnoticed," he said.

According to the authorities dozens of German Muslims are being trained in extremist camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

A message from the militant Islamic Jihad Union posted in several languages including German last week promised "surprise gifts for the occupation forces," apparently referring to Berlin's role in NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier the interior ministry said it was taking seriously another video removed from YouTube on January 12 in which militants threatened to carry out attacks in Berlin, Cologne and Bremen over Germany's engagement in Afghanistan.

A man identified as Bekkay Harrach, who was born in Morocco but lived for several years in Bonn, appeared in another German-language video, which dates from last year but surfaced on January 18, saying that "time was running out for Germany."

A further video -- from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan -- appeared in early January calling on potential recruits from Germany to join training camps on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Germany has about 3,300 soldiers in the relatively safe north of Afghanistan as part of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and Berlin decided last year to increase its contingent to 4,500 troops.

The troops have become frequent targets of attack by Taliban insurgents. A suicide bomb exploded this month outside the German embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing two Afghans and wounding US and German nationals.

The closest Germany came to an attack on home soil was believed to be in July 2006, when Islamist militants placed suitcases containing homemade bombs on two regional trains passing through Cologne's busy main train station. They failed to detonate.

AFP/Expatica

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