Intelligence chief says more Islamic extremists in Germany

AP News
Posted: Feb 22, 2017 7:56 AM
Intelligence chief says more Islamic extremists in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency cautioned Wednesday that the number of Islamic extremists in the country is on the rise and that the threat of an attack remains high.

"We are currently counting 1,600 people as potentially belonging to that group," Hans-Georg Maassen said at the European police congress in Berlin. At the end of last year, the agency had counted around 1,200 people.

The number of extremists under surveillance who are considered potentially dangerous enough to carry out an attack is currently at 570, according to the agency, German news agency dpa reported.

"Every day we get two, sometimes even four concrete leads regarding possible acts," Maassen said. "We have to acknowledge that we live in these conditions and no longer in a normal situation."

In the first mass casualty attack by an Islamic extremist in Germany, a rejected asylum-seeker from Tunisia drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in December, killing 12 and injuring dozens. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Earlier last year, two other attacks carried out by asylum-seekers were claimed by IS. Five people were wounded in an ax rampage on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing outside a bar in Ansbach. Both of the attackers were killed.

Germany's top security officials have long warned that the country is in the crosshairs of terror attacks by Muslim extremists. But it was only after the Christmas market attack in Berlin that authorities started cracking down heavily on Islamic extremists, with arrests and raids against potential IS supporters now taking place on a regular basis.

Earlier Wednesday, German authorities announced that a day earlier they had arrested a Russian citizen accused of financially supporting IS and of dealing drugs.

Munich prosecutors said in a statement that the 35-year-old man, whose name was not given, was detained in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt following extensive undercover surveillance. His home and workplaces were raided and several hard disks and a small amount of drugs were confiscated.

The suspect allegedly supported IS with his own money but also used Russian social media for fundraising. He allegedly also dealt drugs, the statement said.