More than half of the new investigations initiated by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office in the area of internal and external security relate to Islamist terrorism. Terrorist threats in Sweden have increased, the Swedish Security Service warns. One of the main reasons is the burning of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in February.
According to the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the country is still in the sights of Islamist terrorist organizations. Attorney General Peter Frank is very concerned about regional branches of the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS). Only recently did the authority bring up charges against two young suspected Islamists who are said to have planned attacks in Germany on behalf of the IS and who had been in contact with an IS offshoot.
In the area of internal and external security, the Attorney General at the Federal Court of Justice initiated 451 new investigations in 2022. 236 of these procedures, 52 percent, were related to Islamist terrorism. 156 preliminary investigations, almost 35 percent, were assigned to the “foreign ideology” category.
“So the danger of attacks has by no means been averted,” said Frank at his annual press conference. The number of Islamist threats, which is still over 500 nationwide, also speaks for this. The Prosecutor also pointed out: “Although the IS in Syria and Iraq may be largely considered militarily defeated, the organization is far from being destroyed.”
Most of the charges also relate to Islamist terrorism, particularly foreign acts in connection with the terrorist organization Islamic State. From the beginning of 2020 to the end of February 2023, the federal prosecutor’s office brought charges against 46 Islamist and 28 right-wing extremist suspects, as well as against seven supporters of a “foreign ideology” and four left-wing extremist suspects.
“The figures clearly show that Islamist terrorism is still one of the greatest threats to internal security in Germany. The interior minister’s one-sided focus on right-wing extremism is short-sighted and dangerous.” The security authorities must be further strengthened in terms of personnel and legislation. “Instead of finally giving the Office for the Protection of the Constitution modern powers in the digital sphere, the government is threatening to further restrict its work,” is the assessment of the conservative CDU opposition in the German parliament.
According to the federal government, a large proportion of the investigations into Islamism have been discontinued or handed over to the public prosecutor’s office in the individual federal states “due to their minor importance”. The fact that the number of investigations into Islamist terrorism is so high is also due to the fact that perpetrators who were involved in acts of the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq, for example, are always prosecuted by the federal prosecutor’s office in Germany when they are here.
Only if the act is of “particular importance” can the federal prosecutor’s office also take on the domestic prosecution of the preparation of a serious act of violence that is dangerous to the state or the formation of a criminal organization. Therefore, especially in the areas of right-wing and left-wing extremism, many proceedings remain the responsibility of the public prosecutor’s offices of the federal states.
German Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) said that the fight against Islamist extremism and terrorism “continues to be carried out with the utmost determination”, since the threat remains unchanged. “Germany continues to be in the immediate target range of Islamist terrorist organizations. Islamist-motivated individual perpetrators are another significant risk,” she said.
The co-chair of the Greens, part in the governing coalition said: “Jihadist groups pose a threat to our security. It is therefore important that we do not lose sight of these groups – despite the great danger of right-wing extremism – and that the security authorities do not lose sight of the scene watch closely.” The figures also show that the state is taking decisive action against perpetrators who “committed the most serious atrocities” in the so-called Islamic State.
Sweden’s security authorities, in turn, blame current events in the Scandinavian country for the dangers of Islamist terrorism. The trigger for the increase in threats was the burning of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm earlier this year by Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish right-wing extremist.
The burning sparked mass demonstrations across the Muslim world from Istanbul to Jakarta and soured relations with Türkiye, which now refuses to accept Sweden’s NATO entry. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even called on Sweden to change its freedom of speech laws and criminalize the burning of Quran books.
“I can’t go into the nature of the threats. As for the [source of] threats, we are mainly targeting the violent Islamist environment,” said Fredrik Hallström, counter-terrorism director at Sweden’s security agency Säpo.
The war in Ukraine and international rumors about alleged involvement of Swedish social services in illegally separating children from their parents also contributed to the increase in threats, Hallström said.
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