BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany could be a target of an Islamist attack similar to those carried out by a gunman in France two months ago, the head of the country's intelligence service said on Tuesday.
German intelligence chief Heinz Fromm's comments, quoted in an interview with the top-selling Bild daily, follow a series of clashes in several German cities and towns between police and ultra-conservative Salafist Muslims.
"The danger for Germany has unfortunately not decreased. And it is not by any means abstract. An attack like in France in March... is also conceivable here," Fromm told Bild, adding that Merah had had contact with Salafists before his shooting spree.
Gunman Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, killed seven people - three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi - before being shot dead by elite French police commandos in Toulouse on March 22. He had said al Qaeda inspired him to kill.
Fromm cited a video made by a Berlin-based Salafist, a former rapper known as Denis C., which calls for 'holy war' and praises Merah and the late Osama bin Laden, founder of al Qaeda.
"We must take (this video) seriously. It could well be that this video is taken as an inducement for attacks," he said.
"With their intensive propaganda over the Internet, in the streets, in mosques and also at so-called Islam seminars, Salafist preachers are reaching especially young people who are more sensitive to this ideology," said Fromm.
"Almost all Islamist terrorists from Germany have been radicalized in this way," said Fromm, who heads Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Earlier this month, the German government said it was weighing a legal ban on the Salafists after recent clashes.
In the most serious violence, Salafists turned on police protecting far-right anti-Islam protesters during a regional election rally in the western city of Bonn, injuring 29 officers, two of them seriously.
The far-right protesters had infuriated the Salafists by waving banners showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Salafists reject Germany's secular, democratic constitution and want to set up a theocratic state based on Islamic Sharia law, Fromm said.
Salafists number around 4,000 in Germany and have their roots in Saudi Arabia. They represent only a tiny proportion of Germany's total Muslim population of about four million, the vast majority of whom Fromm said respected German laws.
(Reporting By Elisa Oddone, writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Diana Abdallah)