Terrorism: January 14, 2005


The March 11, 2004 bombings in Spain had a motivating effect on German counter-terrorism efforts. The Germans have long been a hospitable place for Islamic radicals, mainly because of generous social benefits, tolerance for foreign communities, closeness to the Middle East and hospitable refugee policies. But since September 11, 2001, German police have been trying to get an idea of the scope of Islamic radicalism in Germany. Last years attack in Spain reminded the Germans that if you lose track of a group of Islamic radicals, the results can be deadly. So the Germans have been arresting more suspects, even though their legal system makes it hard to hang on to them. In the past week, police raids led to the arrest of 21 Islamic radical suspects, after a long period of surveillance and investigation. Those arrested, including five women, were accused of providing logistical support for Islamic radicals planning terrorist attacks in Germany and other countries. The support was mostly in the form of false identify papers for people in Germany illegally, and money for living and other operational expenses. In addition to the arrests, some 57 buildings were searched and many documents were seized.

Germany apparently has hundreds of foreign Moslems under surveillance, and many of them were first detected because of their Internet activities. In the last five years, the number of web sites devoted to Islamic radicalism has grown from about a dozen, to over 2,000. The web sites are particularly popular with Moslem students studying in foreign countries, like Germany. Students make the most lethal terrorists, because they are educated and better able to deal with difficult and complex situations. While the vast majority of young Moslems visiting the radical web sites are merely curious, or just going through the motions, some are serious. The Germans have found cells of terrorists being formed in Germany, and other European countries, after individuals met via the Internet, and discovered that they were living nearby each other. Most of these groups lead to nothing but a lot of wild talk, but some have gone further. The Germans fear that so many of these groups are coming together that they will lose track of one or more of them, and a deadly terrorist attack will result. This is one reason for the recent raids in Germany, to take out terrorist support groups. Terrorists without the necessary support services, are much more vulnerable to detection if they try to plan and carry out an attack. 


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