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Juggling Threats From All Sides: Germany’s Complex Terrorist Picture
15 Jun 2021

Like most countries, Germany is grappling with Islamist terrorism that is increasingly dominated by lone actors, all alongside global terrorist groups such as ISIS that work to launch large-scale plots from abroad. There is also the extreme right, which is creating a wide range of problems not only within the mainstream political spectrum but also amongst security forces where numerous scandals have been uncovered recently.

On 15 June 2021, Dr Daniela Pisoju, Senior Researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, and Dr Guido Steinberg, Senior Associate in the Africa and Middle East Programme of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, spoke at a webinar titled “Juggling Threats From All Sides: Germany’s Complex Terrorist Picture”. They shared their insights on the current state of Germany’s terror threat and the direction it might go, as well as Germany’s response strategies to counter the threat.

Dr Pisoju’s presentation covered two important aspects of right-wing extremist and terrorist threat in Germany: mainstreaming of right-wing discourse and lone actor attacks. She described current counter-terrorism efforts as a “cat and mouse” game. Due to the highly adaptive nature of terrorist actors, achievements by counter-terrorism authorities have often been only temporary.

When the state cracked down on known right-wing structures in terms of organisations, some re-emerged in the form of a “comradeship”, a loose network of underground cells (e.g., the National Socialist Underground). Others such as the Autonomous Nationalists have sought to exist and operate publicly, while not openly supporting violence. This has made it difficult for them to be recognised and prosecuted. The third type of such actors of adaptation, including the Identitarians, have abandoned racist claims in their discourse and replaced them with cultural statements – in an apparent attempt not to be seen as supporters of Nazi theories of race. Dr Pisoju divided right-wing lone attackers into the organically-grown hardcore and lone attacker “losers”.

Dr Steinberg’s talk focused on jihadist challenges. The current jihadist scene in Germany, while being considerably smaller than right-wing extremist networks, is made up of about 1,000 to 2,000 radicals coming largely from poor quarters of Muslim immigrant communities, particularly the Turkish, Kurdish, Albanian and Chechen, who reside in big cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Bonn and Cologne. While there is no single socio-economic profile, jihadist ideology appears to be the common denominator. A high proportion of German fighters in Syria joined sharia-oriented or “state-building” militant groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The involvement of German fighters in the Syrian and Iraq conflict had its repercussions, with ISIS starting to send trained militants to perpetrate attacks in Germany in May 2014.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

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