Germany recently experienced its worst week of terror since 1977, when the Red Army Faction killed Martin Schleyer, the then president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
On July 24, 15 people were injured at a music festival when a Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) suicide-bomber Mohammad Daleel struck in the picturesque North-Bavarian city of Ansbach. The 27-year-old was a Syrian asylum-seeker who had been living in Germany for two years. He made a bomb in the refugee hotel, undetected by the local police. There were no casualties only because the security guard blocked him from entering the festival. In a video released by Daesh, he pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Daleel threatened that while the attack in Ansbach was with an explosive, the next attack would be with car bombs.
On July 18, only 88 kilometres away from Ansbach, a 17-year-old refugee attacked Chinese tourists and an old woman on a train near Wurzburg with an axe and a knife. The boy was an unaccompanied refugee who had been living since 2015 in a small peaceful village nearby. People say he never seemed radical, but instead, friendly and integrated in the community. Five people were wounded, two people are still in critical condition. He was a self-radicalised lone-wolf.
The most severe attack happened in the Bavarian capital of Munich on July 22, 2016. It was not a terror attack, but an 18-year-old German-Iranian born in Munich. At the McDonald’s restaurant and the Olympia Shopping Center, he killed nine people and injured more than 30 after a heated argument with a bystander. He had a history of mental health issues and liked violent video games. It was not a terror attack, but a mass shooting.
On February 26, 2016, a 15-year-old Moroccan girl went to a train station in Hannover and stabbed the first police officer who approached her. She attacked him while he was checking her identity papers. She had decided to strike in Europe since she was unable to travel to Daesh territory. The attack was Daesh-inspired and shows that their attempts at indoctrinating a younger audience are working.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced her new anti-terror plan in a press conference. The plan includes more police, the use of the Federal Armed Forces against terror, a better cooperation within Europe and with the United States, stricter European arms law, a special office against internet crime, better research and sending refugees back who have no right to asylum any more.
The German chancellor has, until now, underestimated the size of the task at hand: The security forces had to check more than one million incoming refugees, many without passports, who had a chaotic and disorganised entry into Germany last year. But less than 100 of them had any connection to terror, the internal intelligence agency (BfV) found out. The main threat is lone-wolves radicalised by internet propaganda.
Prominent experts, like the former head of foreign intelligence (BND), August Hanning, and the Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer, have been insisting for months to tighten border control so we can better know who comes into Germany. But Merkel wants to keep the borders in the European Union open.
The Germans are well-prepared to fight terror, but acts like the ones committed recently are impossible to avoid. Senior security officials said: It is not a question of “if” but “when” such attacks will happen. The head of the internal intelligence agency demanded a better cooperation between the security agencies and joint scrutiny of data. But there are still more words than action.
What does Germany need now, besides Merkel’s plan? A double strategy of hard and soft factors and a mix of many quick actions, including:
n Limiting the amount of refugees Germany can take in. It cannot take in as many refugees as last year and already around 600,000 more have arrived in 2016; 250,000 each year would be a more realistic number.
n Tighter border control is needed for a limited time, maybe one year, to keep out Daesh sympathisers and other radicalised people.
n A better exchange of data between EU member states. Cooperation and data-sharing between security agencies is urgently needed to identify potential threats faster.
n A long-term double strategy of hard and soft factors and a grand strategy are needed. This must include a de-radicalisation programme, the promotion of Codes of Tolerance and the promotion of truly peaceful teachings of Islam.
The terror-swamp of Daesh must continue to be urgently dried out by a more active coalition of many countries.
Dr Hubertus Hoffmann is founder of globalo.com and author of the book Codes of Tolerance published by Al Arabia Publishing Group in Cairo in Arabic.