Germans ‘On Fire’ Over Terror Plots

By | August 14, 2007

Germany officials are said to be so worried a terror attack will come — potentially against U.S. targets on their soil — their "hair is on fire.”

That’s the word from Mark Hosenball, a Newsweek correspondent who wrote a report for the weekly titled, "Terror Watch: The Return of Al Qaeda.”

Newsweek said that Germany’s worries mirror growing concerns in Washington and London that al-Qaida is set to launch major terror attacks this summer. The U.S. embassy in Berlin has already issued warnings that Islamic militants connected with al-Qaida may be plotting attacks on American military facilities in Germany. Unlike London, Glasgow, Madrid and Istanbul, cities in Germany have thus far escaped the horrors of a terrorist attack following 9/11.

But fears of a terror strike in Germany were raised last summer when a pair of suitcase bombs failed to explode on commuter trains. And officials are mindful that several of the terrorists who plotted the 9/11 attacks used Hamburg as a home base.

The concern is that Islamist terrorists could target not only American facilities in that country, but Germany itself — the nation has 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, part of a NATO force battling the Taliban insurgency.

The German government recently set up a team to track the flow of suspected jihadists between Germany and Iraq. The number of suspects being tracked is "more than a handful,” one source told Newsweek. Another source disclosed that German officials know "for sure” that suspects have traveled from Germany to areas in Iraq where al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups operate. Some have returned to Germany, authorities fear, after receiving instruction on terrorist operations.

At a recent press conference, Germany’s Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning said "the intelligence picture German agencies were seeing was reminiscent of what intelligence agencies saw in the months before 9/11,” Newsweek reported.
In response to the growing threat, the country’s top security official, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble, is pressing for the use of online searches of computers belonging to terrorist suspects, and calls for a law to allow security forces to shoot down any plane commandeered by hijackers, according to the New York Times.
He also said this week that Germany should weigh detaining potential terrorists and sanctioning the killing of terrorist leaders in other countries.

Critics complain that the moves would endanger civil liberties in a country that still recalls the tyranny of Nazism and Communism.

But Eckart Klein, a law professor at the University of Potsdam in Germany, told the Times: "If something happened, the same people who are criticizing [Schauble] for going too far would criticize him for not going far enough.”