New German Terror Alert


The German authorities have ordered a new security alert under which physical security has been stepped up—-particularly for civil aviation and rail transport. Thomas de Maiziere, the German Interior Minister, has been quoted by the media as saying as follows: “ Since the middle of 2010, the security services have noticed increased indications that the terrorist organisation  Al Qaeda has been planning attacks in the United States, in Europe and in Germany. Officials now have more details which justified increased concern about sustained efforts to mount an attack. It is the unanimous assessment of the security services that we are currently dealing with a new situation. We have concrete indications of a series of attacks planned for the end of November. ”

He also indicated that the latest information emerged from the attempt to bomb two courier aircraft on their way to Chicago last month — both with printer cartridges filled with explosive. One of the aircraft went through Cologne airport with the explosive device undetected. One does not know whether the earlier warnings about the two parcel-bombs and the latest warning of a conspiracy to launch a fresh terrorist attack in German territory came from the same source. Since the earlier warnings, which reportedly came from Saudi Arabia, proved to be correct, the latest warning, even if from a different source, is being treated seriously by the German authorities.

Whereas the earlier warnings about the two parcel bombs were fairly precise thereby enabling the Dubai and British authorities to intercept and de-activate the explosive devices before they could cause any harm, the latest warning appears to be vague and lacking in essential details. Despite this, the German authorities are taking it seriously. They have alerted their public in order to seek their co-operation and stepped up physical security in all vulnerable areas.

The commendable German reaction to the warning — though vague it is — stands in sharp contrast to our lethargic response to the warnings reportedly  received from the US intelligence in September,2008, about the danger of a sea-borne terrorist attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on seafront establishments in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel. The intelligence which our security agencies had received from the US intelligence was much more specific than the intelligence now received by the Germans. We failed to alert the public and did not step up coastal surveillance and physical security for the Taj Mahal Hotel and other seafront establishments. The result: the 26/11 terrorist strikes.

Al Qaeda and the Afghan and Pakistani Talibans have stepped up their propaganda against the UK, France and Germany because of their participation in the NATO operations in Afghanistan. France has come for additional criticism from Osama bin Laden because of the restrictions sought to be imposed on Muslim girl students wearing the veil in schools. While there have been no attacks by Al Qaeda in Europe after the London blasts of July,2005, a number of planned attacks in the UK, Spain, Denmark, Norway and  Germany were detected in advance and thwarted. There were two attacks by suspected Al Qaeda elements against French experts in Africa. A retired French engineer was kidnapped in Niger in April last and subsequently killed. In September, Al Qaeda in Maghreb kidnapped five French nationals working for two French companies in the uranium mines of Niger, along with two others from Madagascar and Togo. They have not so far been released.

In a message addressed to the French people disseminated on October 27, bin Laden admitted these kidnapping by Al Qaeda in Maghreb and justified it in the following words: “The taking of your experts in Niger as hostages, while they were being protected by your proxy agent there, is a reaction to the injustice you are practicing against our Muslim nation. How could it be fair that you intervene in the affairs of Muslims, in North and West Africa in particular, support your proxies  against us, and take a lot of our wealth in suspicious deals, while our people there suffer various forms of poverty and despair? If you unjustly thought that it is your right to prevent free Muslim women from wearing the face veil, is it not our right to expel your invading men and cut their necks?” bin Laden urged France to withdraw from Afghanistan, calling it an unjust war – and pledged more kidnappings if his warnings were not heeded.

Compared to the warnings addressed by Al Qaeda to the French, there have been no similar warnings addressed recently to the Germans. Germany has not figured in any recent message of Al Qaeda. There have been no attacks on Germans outside Europe and the Af-Pak area. Despite this, the threat to Germany is rated high because Al Qaeda — directly as well as through  the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek terrorist organization with headquarters in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan and with a presence in Germany— has  the trained volunteers  and the  capability for carrying out a terrorist strike in Germany. A number of Muslims from Germany, including some white converts to Islam, have received training in the camps of the IJU in North Waziristan and have constituted themselves into a German Taliban.

These elements have the required motivation, capability and support in the local Muslim community in Germany to be able to carry out a terrorist strike similar to the Madrid attack of March,2004 or the London blasts of July,2005 but  their ability to carry out  a commando style attack similar to the 26/11 one in Mumbai is doubtful. The German authorities are taking no chances and have stepped up the physical security.

B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

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