BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling Germans in her New Year message that their country is stronger than terrorism and the government will do everything to ensure "security in freedom."
Merkel said in her annual televised address being broadcast Saturday that 2016 had been "a year of severe tests," the toughest of them Islamic extremist terror. She added, however, that she is "confident for Germany."
On Dec. 19, 12 people were killed in a truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that rampage, as it did for two attacks in Bavaria in the summer in which the assailants — who came to Germany as asylum-seekers, like the chief suspect in Berlin — were killed and a total of 20 people were wounded.
"It is particularly bitter and sickening when terror attacks are committed by people who claim to seek protection in our country," said Merkel, who has faced criticism for allowing in large numbers of migrants in 2015.
However, "in going about our life and our work, we are telling the terrorists: you are murderers full of hatred, but you will not determine how we live and want to live," she said, according to the text released by the government ahead of the message's broadcast. "We are free, considerate and open."
Germany is sending the same message in saying, in the face of pictures of the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo, "how important and right it was for our country to help those who really need our protection find their feet here and integrate," Merkel added.
Germany's democracy and values are the opposite of "the hate-filled world of terrorism, and they will be stronger than terrorism," she said. "We are stronger together. Our state is stronger. Our state is doing everything to guarantee its citizens security in freedom."
She pledged that in 2017 the government will take action quickly "where political or legal changes are necessary."
Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor in an election expected in September, and already has said that she expects her toughest campaign yet. She called for "an open view of the world and self-confidence, in ourselves and our country."
The chancellor assailed "distorted pictures" of the European Union and of parliamentary democracy.
She acknowledged that Europe is slow and difficult and said it should concentrate on "what it really can do better than the national state."
"But, no, we Germans should never be deceived into thinking that a happy future could ever lie in going it alone nationally," Merkel said.