Germany: A hotbed of Hizbullah activity

Number of terrorist group's members has grown to 900 in 2007.

Hizbullah march 224.88 (photo credit: )
Hizbullah march 224.88
(photo credit: )
Khaled Kashkush is not the first Hizbullah spy to be recruited and trained in Germany. In 1997 the Lebanese Shi'ite movement recruited Stefan Smyrek, a German who converted to Islam, to carry out a suicide attack in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Smyrek, whose father was a British soldier stationed in Germany, was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport and released as part of a prisoner swap in 2004. Alexander Ritzmann, a Hizbullah expert and senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that mosques and Iranian cultural centers in such cities as Hamburg, Berlin and Münster were hotbeds of Hizbullah activity. The terrorist organization has not been outlawed in Germany, and its approximately 900 supporters are permitted to raise funds and call for the destruction of Israel. The number of Hizbullah members in Germany has grown from 800 in 2006 to 900 in 2007, according to German intelligence reports. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution - Germany's domestic intelligence agency - identified Hizbullah as a threat to the country's democracy in its annual report for 2007. Yet there was "a political decision of the German government to not act against Hizbullah," Ritzmann said. He said he favored a ban of Hizbullah and stressed that it was "totally unacceptable that a democratic state" had failed to outlaw a "super-professional and dangerous group" that sought to launch terror attacks against Israeli, American and Jewish institutions. Waisenkinderprojekte in Germany, an orphans' project whose director, Hisham Hassan, allegedly introduced Kashkush to his Hizbullah conspirator, is cited by German intelligence reports as a charity receiving donations from Hizbullah activists. The charity's funds have been used to support the families of suicide bombers who killed Israelis. Critics argue that Hizbullah's unrestricted activities contravene Germany's commitment to ensure the existence of Israel. The discovery by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that Hizbullah recruited Kashkush in Germany follows last week's disclosure in the Post that Germany has expanded its robust economic trade partnership with Iran, an ally and military supplier of Hizbullah. Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch, a spokeswoman for the University of Gottingen, confirmed in an e-mail to the Post that Kashkush was in his 14th semester as a medical student at the university and had registered himself for the winter semester of 2008/2009. When asked about the Shin Bet's concern that Germany's Interior Ministry, which is responsible for monitoring Hizbullah's activities, failed to clamp down on its recruitment activity, Stefan Paris, a spokesman for the ministry, declined to comment.