A Turkish soldier atop a tank watches as Islamic State jihadis advance on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, October 10..
(photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)
BERLIN – Germany’s domestic intelligence agency severely underestimated the number of radical German Muslims who are fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a Frankfurt-based newspaper reported.
The previous estimate of 450 combatants fighting for the Islamic State should be increased to 1,800, an unnamed agent of the domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz) told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ) newspaper in Sunday’s report. “We have to multiply the official number by four, in order to get a realistic number,” the agent said.
Nearly 40 women and a 13-year-old boy are among those who left to join the fight in Syria, German media reported.
The Germans who left for Syria and Iraq were identified as Sunnis who adhere to the strict fundamentalist school of Salafism. As many as 200 German Muslim departed North Rhine-Westphalia state to fight in the Middle East, according to FAZ.
The lack of credible tracking of radical Islamists on their way to Syria and Iraq was attributed to staffing shortages at the Verfassungsschutz (the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) – the equivalent of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Staff was redeployed to work on neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground murder cases.
A spokeswoman for the Verfassungsschutz told The Jerusalem Post earlier this year that the agency cannot track all radical Islamists who travel to Syria, because many arrive in Turkey, which does not require a visa, and manage to cross the border to fight in the civil war.
At least 150 German Islamists have returned from the war zone in Syria.
The FAZ report confirmed the Post article that the real number of German Muslims fighting in Syria cannot be verified.
“Every week that police and Verfassungsschutz on the Federal and State levels learned about scores of person who traveled to Syria and did not know about their intentions before...”
Verfassungsschutz head Hans-Georg Maassen said on Saturday there could be as many as 7,000 Salafists in Germany by the end of the year.
Maassen described the targets of Salafist recruiters as men, Muslims, those of immigrant background, and failures in life, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported. Membership in the Salafist movement in Germany transmits a feeling of belonging to an avant-garde group, he said.
Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, from the Christian Social Union party, called for the deportation of violent Salafists. The head of Germany’s police union, Oliver Malchow, called for a stronger observation of mosque groups and Islamic associations.
In addition to such radical Sunni groups, there are 950 active Hezbollah members in the Federal Republic.
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to Berlin, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, warned in a Sunday interview with the WAZ paper that “Germany’s society should be concerned.
Today extremists agitate against Jews, tomorrow against Yezidis and Kurds, and perhaps the day after against Christians. Germany’s democracy is in danger.”